iMarket Solutions Blog : Archive for the ‘Lead Generation’ Category

The Top Myths about Paid Search (SEM): Part 2

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

In our previous blog post, we outlined some of the biggest myths out there regarding paid search, also known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising or Search Engine Marketing (SEM). We want to continue that discussion here. Even though those myths are the biggest, they’re not the only misplaced beliefs out there. Keep reading for a few more arguments we’ve heard against paid search and see how marketing experts debunk them.

Myth #1: Paid Search Doesn’t Work

Paid search works, if you’ve structured your account the right way. Advertisers only get charged by Google if someone clicks on their ads, so if the ads don’t get clicked on, Google Ads wouldn’t be a viable revenue stream for Google, and they would not offer it as a product. Research has revealed that Google actually makes over $1 million revenue in a day from Google Ads alone!

Myth #2: Nobody Clicks on Paid Search Ads

Let’s put it this way—if you’re meeting what the searcher needs, they are going to click on your ad! Small business owners are often worried that customers don’t trust paid ads. But the truth is, customers click on whatever looks like it’s going to get them what they need.

Additionally, Google has changed their paid ads to look more and more organic, so even if that is a factor, customers might not even see a noticeable difference. But as it stands, according to research from Moz, people are clicking on paid search ads vs. organic search results more. In fact, sponsored search results account for 64.6% of clicks for high commercial intent keyword searches.

Myth #3: You Don’t “Need” Paid Search—You Rank for Organic

That’s great that you rank for organic! There are a number of benefits to SEO. SEO is, in a sense, the long-term “big brother” to PPC and SEM. You should be using both! PPC gets you traffic immediately, but SEO is building in the background and growing your exposure and ownership in the organic world at the same time.

SEO offers a great long-term ROI, fantastic exposure, branding, and awareness, and it is cost effective. PPC gives you the ability to only pay for results, target a highly specific segment, and provide time sensitive offers that are not always possible with SEO.

Myth #4: Paid Search Isn’t Worth It for Small Businesses

The question isn’t whether paid search is right for small businesses in general—the question is if paid search makes sense for your HVAC, plumbing, or electrical company.

In order to determine whether paid search advertising (or any other marketing strategy) is worth it, you have to know your numbers. First and foremost, you should know how much you’re willing to pay for each lead you receive.

Google Ads enables clients to set a daily ad spend and a maximum bid value meaning all businesses will only spend what they can afford.

Myth #5: You Can’t or Shouldn’t Use Google Local Services, SEO, PPC and Reputation Management Together

We covered this in our previous blog post—this couldn’t be further from the truth. Any marketing methods you choose for your contracting business is going to depend on the specific needs of your business. Your needs may change over time, and you can adjust which products you invest in accordingly. But the ultimate goal is to use the right marketing products together in order to build authority and trust in your brand.

If you want to run a successful PPC campaign, you want the right people on your team, who know how to run your PPC account and integrate it with your other marketing products. That’s what you get with our team!

When you’re ready to discuss how PPC advertising for contractors can impact your brand, contact iMarket Solutions. Speak to a representative today about our full suite of contractor marketing services.

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The Top Myths about Paid Search (SEM): Part 1

Monday, May 13th, 2019

Running a contracting business without an online presence isn’t an option anymore. But what type of online marketing is right for your business? One method of marketing that’s gained popularity, but also skepticism, over the years is paid search. Also known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and Search Engine Marketing (SEM), paid search is all about building strong accounts and analyzing the data to see how you can best optimize the data you find.

2018 Search Statistics

According to SE Leads, 43% of internet searches performed today use a local keyword and 86% of those searches convert to a phone call or visit to the physical location of the business. 61% of searchers consider local results to be more relevant than standard, organic search results, according to Resource.com.

Without knowing these statistics, however, or understanding why they are important, it’s easy to fall for one or more of the following misconceptions:

Myth #1: Paid Search Is Expensive

The thing many small business owners miss about paid search is that you pay for the clicks that your ad actually gets. So, if your ad campaigns are set up correctly, each click is going to ideally be from someone who is interested in your services.

Each of these clicks’ costs will vary depending on your keywords, keyword match type that you are bidding on, competitors bidding on that keyword, and the quality of your account. So, sure, you can spend a lot of money. But you don’t have to. You’ll want to work with a PPC expert to see how you can maximize the spend for the best ROI.

Myth #2: Clicks Don’t Convert

Have you set up tracking to actually learn whether or not your ads are converting? The fact of the matter is, about 97% of consumers go online to find local services. They’re looking for you, but it’s up to you to take steps to give them the information they need to make a decision.

With paid ad tracking, you have the ability to eliminate wasted spend on irrelevant keywords, provide a true cost-per-lead, retarget previously missed leads and sales, and improve your cost-per-click and ROI on your paid campaigns.

Myth #3: You Can’t Track the ROI of Paid Search

Yes, you can! Refer back to Myth #2, and know that with the right conversion tracking tools and KPI’s (key performance indicators) you can create highly effective strategies that convert into leads. Google Ads and paid search are not “set it and forget it” strategies, which we’ll get to in myth #4.

Myth #4: You Can “Set It & Forget It”

Paid search is effective, and it’s an excellent online marketing tool to utilize. But we never said it’s easy to implement! If you set up a Google Ads campaign without knowing how to find the right keywords, target audience, how to write good ad copy, or set up proper tracking, then it likely won’t work the way you want it to.

Beyond knowing how to run a successful paid search campaign, you also need to learn how to maintain the success of a campaign once it’s live. Once you have this down, paid search/PPC advertising can provide you with the same flexibility and opportunity for success on day 100 as it can on day 1, as long as you are consistently doing keyword research and updating your information as you track your business and conversions.

One of the perks of using this Google product is that Google tells you what people searched for that triggered your ads, and you can look at that report to make sure that those are the types of keywords you are bidding on. If your ads are showing up and you’re getting impressions (views) but not clicks, then your ads may be coming up for the right keywords but you may have to adjust the ad copy, as something is preventing viewers from going further. Then when they do click, you want to look at whether they’re converting once they get to the relevant landing page.

Myth #5: Position 1, Page 1, Is All That Matters

Page 1 is important, yes. But position is not as important. Allow us to elaborate—you want your ad copy to work on making people choose you over the other people in the 4 ad spots on the page.

If you get a top spot in the search result, it doesn’t guarantee that your ad will be clicked. It has as much chance of being clicked as the other 3 showing on the top of the page. There’s also a probability that you’ll have to pay too much for the clicks in position 1. In short, you don’t want to bid to position, you want to bid to profitability.

Myth #6: You Must Own Single Word Keywords

The majority of searches now are long tail keywords with at least 4 words and full questions. This is becoming even more common with voice search from things like Alexa and Google Home. For instance, a consumer may say, “Hey Google, find me an air conditioner repair in Dallas” which would stick you in their results if you used that long tail keyword.

The types of keywords you choose depend on what works best for your advertising campaign and budget. That’s why you have to look at what you have available for budget to spend and bid on the keywords that are going to bring in the most leads with the budget you have. Shorter keywords can be good for mining for how people are searching. But if you want to bring in leads, you typically want to have long tail keywords.

Bonus Myths!

There are two more myths we want to talk about. The first one is that many business owners believe that competitors can click on ads and drive up costs. They can. But, Google has an extremely sophisticated click fraud program in place that detects and filters out invalid clicks in real time so that businesses only pay for authentic traffic.

The second myth is that you shouldn’t use Google Local Services, SEO, PPC, and Reputation Management together, which is far from the truth! While it will depend on the specific needs of your business, using these together will help you build trust as an authority.

“What If I’ve Tried PPC Advertising and It Didn’t Work for Me?”

To put it simply, and to reiterate the points made above, the key to successful PPC advertising is proper account setup and ongoing management of your PPC advertising. It must be updated on an ongoing basis, and you need to have the right people who know how to run your PPC account.

Looking for some expert help with your PPC for contractors? Look no further than iMarket Solutions. Contact us today and learn about our full suite of contractor marketing services.

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What Contractors Need to Know about Email Marketing

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

Email marketing is an extremely effective customer conversion method for contractors to have in their marketing toolbox, but what makes a good email marketing campaign?

It is about so much more than simply blasting your customers and potential leads with the same, templated email. Your email marketing messages should provide value, through personalization. Of course, your technicians visit many different customers on any given day and you have hundreds of contacts to follow up with, so how do you personalize messages on a larger scale to achieve the results you want?

Send the Right Message to the Right Person at the Right Time

What type of people should you be targeting with your email marketing campaign? When should you contact them? What data should you be collecting? Knowing the answers to these questions speaks volumes to the type of customer service and value you provide as a contractor.

Creating a customer persona is one way to know who you are speaking to. For instance, the average HVAC customer is looking for one of 3 things when they contact an HVAC contractor:

  1. HVAC system repairs
  2. HVAC system installation
  3. Professional HVAC maintenance

The general customer is looking for exceptional customer service, convenience, and solid, trustworthy communication from the technicians in their home. But these are just the basics–your email marketing messages should go beyond this to truly meet the unique needs of your individual customers.

Marketers see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalized experiences.

The goal of this kind of personalized marketing is to truly engage customers by communicating with each as an individual. This starts with the data that you are collecting. Your service technicians do this already right from the start at the customer’s front door, but it doesn’t end there.

For instance, if your technicians notice that a customer is a dog owner, they may recommend an indoor air quality system for that customer, such as an air scrubber, and your email would benefit from being sent right before allergy season.

Knowing how long your customers have been with you is a vital tool for email marketing as well. In fact, it can be 6-7 times harder to obtain new customers than to retain the ones you have, through email marketing–and increasing your customer retention rate by as little as 5% could boost your profits by 25%.

So if you knew you had a customer whose HVAC system was installed over 12 years ago, the right message would be that systems over this age will see a dramatic drop in efficiency, and the right time to send that message may be every 2 months before conversion.

Utilizing Email Marketing for Annual Maintenance Agreements

How can you use this method of sending “the right message to the right people at the right time” in renewing annual maintenance agreements (AMA’s)? By focusing on retention and thanking the customer for their loyalty. When you look at your customers, the “right people” are those who are currently subscribed to your AMA program. The “right time” will typically be 30-60 days before their renewal date. The “right message” is particularly important here.

Sure, you could send a standard, “it’s time to renew your AMA agreement!” to these customers, but this is not utilizing the personalization techniques we’ve outlined above. A more appropriate message will vary by contractor, but an example of how to make this message stick out to the reader is by truly honing in on the personalization aspect:

“Dear [*first name*],

Thank you for your continued loyalty. We’ve noticed you’ve been a customer with us for 10 years, and we’d love to have you for another one. We noticed your maintenance program renewal date is coming up. Please contact us to renew!

What If Your Customer Isn’t Already an AMA Member?

Whether you are contacting a long-time customer or emailing someone who has never enrolled in your AMA program before, remember that in all your messaging, you’re looking for a unique solution to meet their needs and budget. When contacting a customer not already enrolled in your AMA program, you’ll want a long term email marketing strategy. Let’s look at a common example for a new customer who is not a current AMA Member.

Introduction Email > Explanation of AMA Benefits > “Still Not Convinced?” > “You’re Due for a Tune-Up!” > AMA Promotion > 2nd “Still Not Convinced?” Email with Explanation of Benefits > AMA Promotion #2 > Ideally, a Conversion of Customer Investing in AMA or Scheduling a Tune-Up

Essentially, the goal of email marketing for contractors is to develop an omnichannel customer experience driven by hyper-personalization big data, through marketing automation. This is marketing speak for: You want to create a one-on-one experience!

74% of online consumers get frustrated when targeted online content has nothing to do with their interests. 78% of online consumers are more likely to be a repeat customer if a brand provides targeted, personalized, offers.

By anticipating your customer’s needs and giving them the experience they want, you maintain credibility and relevance, thereby increasing customer retention and improving your sales.

For email marketing solutions and to learn more about our full suite of contractor marketing products, contact iMarket Solutions.

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Upgrade Your Marketing: Digital Marketing Tips for Contractors

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

You have many options when it comes to developing a marketing plan for your contracting business. Creating the right strategy is a vital part to helping your business thrive. This includes traditional marketing methods as well as newer, digital marketing strategies.

We mentioned this briefly in our last blog post about selling in the shoulder season, though it applies year round—forming a reputable digital footprint in today’s online and mobile environment is not optional. It’s key to helping you build your brand, attract leads, and build customer relationships.

If It’s Not Digital, Is It Even Marketing?

There is of course still value in traditional marketing practices, such as sending direct mail pieces that advertise your products and services, promoting your business and services from a booth at a home show, or even setting up charity events in your local area. But there is no denying that today’s consumers are increasingly mobile and web-based. Therefore, it’s essential to have a solid digital marketing plan in place.

What does this look like? Here are just a few digital marketing tips for you to keep in mind:

  1. Create a Well-Designed Website: It’s not enough to simply have a website up—it must be well designed. This means creating a site that is visually appealing, allows site visitors and customers to figure out what you’re about right away, is user-friendly (customers can find what they’re looking for instantly), and properly optimized. Don’t forget that it has to be fast and responsive—this means it works on any online and mobile device.  
  2. Optimize Your Web Pages and Blog: Weak keywords are the worst enemy to a well-designed website and blog. Choosing the right keywords to attract your target demographic requires a long-term strategy that includes understanding your competition and knowing exactly what web visitors are searching for. Trusting an experienced marketing company to create your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy will ensure that this is done correctly and that you avoid what’s known as “black hat” SEO practices—tactics that can get your website flagged by Google and other major search engines.
  3. Invest in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads: Also called “paid advertising,” PPC ads are an essential component of any effective digital marketing plan, especially in highly-competitive markets. A PPC ad is what you see on the top and right sides of search engine results pages. They’re named as such because advertisers pay each time a web visitor conducting a search clicks on one of those ads.
  4. Have a Social Media and Email Marketing Plan in Place: There’s a lot still to be said for “word-of-mouth” advertising. Social media has taken this form of marketing and amplified it. Businesses can now easily reach customers where they’re at, not necessarily to make a sale, but to engage directly with potential consumers in order to build a relationship. Email marketing is another way to effectively get the word out about your business to leads and members of your community. From eNewsletters to promotional announcements, email allows you to get your business top of mind when the recipient needs a home services contractor down the road.

Not all products are right for each and every contractor. You’ll want to work closely with a qualified professional who specializes in marketing for contractors to help determine the right mix of products for your particular contracting business. When you work with our team, you don’t have to worry about your knowledge of the digital marketing space—that’s what we are here for!

iMarket Solutions is your resource for the leading digital solutions, and other great marketing tips. We would love the opportunity to assess your current digital campaign and see where your lead opportunities are. Contact us today!

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Preparing for the Spring Shoulder Selling Season

Monday, January 28th, 2019

One of the most common challenges contractors face as spring approaches is pushing sales in the shoulder season. For some, the challenge is even greater since the slow selling season happens twice a year—depending on where you are geographically. It’s something that you need a solid plan to overcome, as this potential loss of revenue can impact even the most successful contracting business.

Overcoming Negative Cash Flow

For many, if not most, contractors the shoulder season means there is not enough consumption to overcome the overhead costs of business—there just isn’t enough gross profit during this time. This puts contractors in a tight spot, often with negative cash flow as they struggle to pay the bills and keep quality talent on staff without losing them to other trades.

This leads us to the question we often get, “How can I be successful in the shoulder season?”

One of the first things you’ll need to do as a contractor is recognize when your shoulder season is. At iMarket Solutions, our customers have access to a budget planning tool to help identify their shoulder season as well as how many jobs a contractor would need to overcome this—answering the question, “How many units do I need to sell and how many services do I need to provide in order to break even?”

Service calls aren’t enough—contractors need a mix of business and products sold during this period to be successful. And in order to make these sales, some specific steps need to happen. This starts with conducting a situational analysis of your current marketing plan in order to analyze the problem you’re facing. From there, you’ll need to determine:

  • Your revenue by department (as part of your budget)
  • Your growth by segment, both percentage and dollar amount
  • The mix of business and products you’ll need to sell in order to achieve desired revenue
  • A media plan that delivers the leads you require on a weekly and/or monthly basis
  • How to fix the seasonality problem
  • A promotional and pricing strategy to increase revenue

This last point is often one that contractors resist, but it’s an important one. We encourage you to run promotions during this slow-selling period! In fact, we want you to create a promotional plan so strong that a customer who doesn’t even need what you’re selling feels compelled to react on an emotional level.

Yes, this costs time and money in an already strained period of the year. But, it’s important to think of your business as not only a contracting company, but a retailer. And retailers do what it takes to fill capacity in order to bring sales up and break even sooner. Often, this means offering incentives in order to produce even minimal revenue, with the goal to create lead opportunities and future transactions.

Selling Service Agreements

One of the biggest keys to revenue growth for contractors is service agreements. We encourage you to get your service agreements to 1,500 per million for your residential business unit. Of course, this requires a lot of selling, and many contractors are concerned about this as most technicians are not trained to sell but rather to provide service.

It’s up to you to create a daily training plan in order to arm your technicians with the resources needed to provide accessory sales and service agreements.

“But, what if my technicians just aren’t motivated to sell?”

This is a valid concern. People are fueled by intrinsic motivation, and your technicians may have the limiting belief of, “I’m not a salesperson.” This is exactly why training is so important! In addition to regular training, being upfront and honest with your technicians can do a lot to encourage them. Just like any other business, employees are always looking for answers to “what’s in it for me?”

We encourage starting the conversation by sharing your company’s vision, value, and purpose. Explain in principle to your technicians what is in it for them, and why they should care. Many contractors shy away from sharing financials because they think their technicians aren’t interested. However, being upfront gives them a reason to care and empowers them to understand how they contribute to the company’s overall success.

“What Else Can I Do to Help My Business?”

The methods you implement to sell your products and services during the shoulder season will depend on a number of factors, but here are a few more steps we encourage you to take:

  • Implementing a new sales process
  • Starting a tuck-in strategy in order to add customers to your existing database
  • Implementing an annual reference guide for seasonal discounts and promotions
  • Creating a brand promise that is unique to your market
  • Considering a new vertical to add on to your products and services
  • Tracking all your lead sources and defining your cost per lead

Last, but not least, we encourage you to build your digital branding and online presence. This includes an updated website, a PPC (Pay-Per-Click) search strategy, and social media marketing. It’s important to remember that we are in a period of time when mobile search rules all other forms of internet search, so using these methods along with building organic links with a strong content strategy are essential to forming a reputable digital footprint.

Contact iMarket Solutions today to learn more about our digital solutions and how we can help you overcome the slow selling season.

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Enhance Your Facebook Business Page

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Facebook has over 250 million users, 52 percent of which use it daily. And it is no longer just for the youth audience, the 35 and older demographic now represents more than 30 percent of users. That means using Facebook to promote your business is becoming a more and more effective way to reach potential customers. To help you build a stronger presence on Facebook, iMarket is offering an enhanced Facebook business profile.

With this new service, we will design a full banner and a landing page (like the one here) which entices people to “like” your business page. This is a great place to offer incentives, such as a special discount for Facebook fans, which will convince people to want to connect with you on Facebook. After the person has “liked” your business, a special Welcome page will display for them.  From the landing page, your welcome page, and a contact tab under your banner, your visitors will be able to access an integrated contact form so they can email you right from Facebook! All of these features will be designed to match your website and increase brand awareness of your business.

Why get this service? The new landing page is much more effective at converting visitors into “likers.” And the more people that “like” your page, the more people your posts will reach.  Social media is an excellent form of word-of-mouth marketing, which allows new customers to hear about you through their friends. There is the added benefit of allowing these potential customers to get to know your company through your posts and be able to contact you instantly.

Social media marketing can be very powerful, but you need to utilize it effectively.  Since most companies today are embracing social media, an enhanced Facebook presence will put your business ahead of the crowd. Combined with our content management package, in which blogs posts are sent out to your Facebook page three times a week, you will establish yourself as a knowledgeable resource for your customers. For more information, contact us today!

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iMarket Live Chat

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

You know that many people use search engines to find local businesses, which is why having a website for your company is so important. But what is the best way to utilize your site to turn searchers into customers? iMarket has a great solution for you: Live Chat. This service allows website owners to receive and respond to instant messages through their website to answer questions and receive service requests (check out the icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen!).

As soon as a visitor reaches your site, the Live Chat icon will appear. If a potential customer initiates a chat, an iMarket agent who has the details of you company will gather information from the customer (such as name, phone number, etc.) and send you an email about the lead. We can also connect the homeowner to someone at your business right from the Live Chat window.

Live Chat can increase the results from your online advertising an average of 35 percent, making your website an even larger part of your lead generation. The simple, easy interface allows customers who prefer not to talk over the phone to contact your business immediately.  Since the Live Chat is available 24/7, not just during business hours, your website will always be able to reach potential customers.  This could be the crucial difference that makes a person choose your company over one of your competitors.

The best part of Live Chat? You only pay for the leads you receive. Check out our Live Chat page for more information!

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Inbound Marketing: The Future of Marketing Part V: The Yellow Pages – Your Grandmother’s Inbound Marketing?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

“Why are the Yellow Pages like nursing homes? They’re shockingly expensive, few people under 70 use them, and many who do are just a little out of it.”*

Ah, the Yellow Pages. The tried and true marketing stalwart.

After reading the last few blog posts, you might be saying, “Hey, wait a minute, Yellow Pages puts your business in front of people who are already looking for your products and services. Doesn’t that make the Yellow Pages ads a kind of inbound marketing?”

Yes, it does. It’s why the Yellow Pages used to be a pretty good source of leads. It is a search engine made out of paper.

But things are changing now. In 2008, the Internet surpassed the Yellow Pages and became the #1 source for information about local businesses. Back then, the two mediums were running pretty much neck-and-neck, but since then the gap has widened. It’s hard to get statistics on Yellow Pages usage, because of course the Yellow Pages wants to put as positive a spin as it can on its numbers. However, we can get a sense of where things are going from the September 2010 public filing of SuperPages (one of the largest Yellow Pages companies in the US): SuperPages’ revenue decreased 61.3% from 2009 to 2010.

Of course, this only tells you that fewer people are advertising in the Yellow Pages; it doesn’t tell you how often your potential customers are using the Yellow Pages to find you. In the absence of any useful statistics from the Yellow Pages itself, there are a couple of ways to get a feel for this.

First, ask people you know how often they use the Yellow Pages in general. If you ask your kids, they’ll probably say “never”. If you ask your mother or grandmother, she’ll probably tell you that she still uses it occasionally.

Then, start asking your recently-acquired customers if they used the Yellow Pages to find you. Remember to phrase the question carefully, though, because people may look up your number in the Yellow Pages because they heard about you some other way. If that’s the case, it’s not your expensive Yellow Pages display ad that generated the lead – some other form of advertising really made the sale for you.

Although Yellow Pages use is hard to ascertain, we do have some pretty good statistics about how many people use the internet to research local products and services. According to a recent BIA/Kelsey study, 97% of people use some kind of online media (search engines, social networks, etc) to check out a product before they buy it.

Coming back to our basic principle of inbound marketing – putting your message out in front of people who are actively engaged in looking for a product or service – we believe that these days the smart (marketing) money is on the Internet, not the Yellow Pages.

However, we recommend that you don’t completely forget the Yellow Pages. Some people (particularly older people or people in rural areas with poor internet connections) will still use the Yellow Pages to look up your number after they’ve heard good things about you via other channels, including the Internet.

Also, there is still a compelling reason for service companies to maintain a Yellow Pages listing: you need to make sure people can find you during an emergency, even if the power is out.

For this reason, we recommend that you maintain a simple line listing in the Yellow Pages – but that you don’t renew your display ad unless your survey of your customers provides clear evidence that it’s working for you.

Adopting an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude, the Yellow Pages are fighting back with their new YP.com website and mobile phone app. According to a recent article in USA today, 40 million people have downloaded the app so far. At iMarket, we’re keeping tabs on these developments and our strategy will continue to evolve to meet the changing online environment.

*This is a joke circulating around the internet, and it probably stems from a blog post made by Killian Branding at http://www.killianbranding.com/whitepapers/why-are-the-yellow-pages-like-nursing-homes/. The post makes some terrific additional points about Yellow Pages vs. Internet advertising that we didn’t have room to go into here.

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Inbound Marketing: The Future of Marketing Part IV: Maximizing Your Blog’s ROI

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Last week we claimed that blogging is an affordable way for non-professional marketers to enjoy some of the benefits of inbound marketing. This week, we’ll offer some statistics to back up our claim.

Here are some great numbers from the recent HubSpot survey of small business owners and marketing professionals:

  • Most businesses now have a blog – 65%. Businesses without a blog are now in the minority. Chances are, your competitors have a blog – and you should too.
  • 57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired customers directly from their blog.
  • 55% of respondents said that the leads generated from their blog cost less than the average cost-per-lead for their business.
  • Respondents were more likely to say that blogs were a low-cost source of leads than any other marketing channel, inbound or outbound. If you only do one form of inbound marketing, a blog is the one to choose.

So how do you make a blog work for you? Once again, the statistics have the answer. If you walk away from this article with only one fact stuck in your mind, make it this one:

The more you post to your blog, the more likely it is to generate leads for you.

Fewer than half of survey respondents who posted to their blog once a month or less had acquired a customer through their blog, but 72% – nearly three-quarters! – of businesses that posted once a week had acquired at least one customer through their blogs. This number increased to 76% for respondents who posted 2-3 times a week, and to 89% for respondents who posted to their blogs more than once a day.

If you’re not posting to your blog at least once a week, you’re leaving a lot of leads on the table.

Looking at these statistics, we’ve concluded that for a small business owner who is writing his or her own blog posts, posting once a week hits the “sweet spot” for maximum ROI. If you post less often than that, your lead generation drops off significantly. If you post more often, you will probably get some increase in leads, but you have to invest several additional hours a week to do it, and the ROI might not be there.

However, if your company is larger and has more resources to devote to marketing, the more blog posts, the merrier. You should experiment until you find the “sweet spot” of ROI for your particular market.

(Of course, if no one in your company wants to write the blog posts, you can always hire professionals to write them for you. This is often the easiest and most affordable way to go – and it is usually the best way to be sure that your blog posts stay on schedule.)

Next week: The Yellow Pages – Your Grandmother’s Inbound Marketing?

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Inbound Marketing: The Future of Marketing Part III: Blogs: Inbound Marketing for Everybody

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Last week, we talked about how companies that do outbound marketing are like lions wandering the jungle hunting for elephants, while companies that do inbound marketing are like lions that cleverly wait by the watering hole where all the elephants come to drink.

Of course – to continue the analogy – there are a lot of different watering holes in the online jungle. You need to figure out which ones are worth staking out. You also need to have the right tools to catch your prey when it gets there.

In some cases, the methods for choosing the watering hole and catching the prey can be pretty high-tech and can’t be used by laypeople. You’ll definitely need professional help to use all these tools and run a complete and maximally-successful inbound marketing campaign.

(Some people find inbound marketing off-putting because it requires professional help to do it well. But if you think about it, you need a whole team of professionals – graphic designers, film crews, producers, printers, etc. – to do high-quality outbound marketing. The professional help you’ll need for inbound marketing is usually much less expensive.)

However, even if you can’t afford a professional inbound marketing campaign, there is still one cheap, easy way to lurk by the watering hole: blogging.

Why are blogs so great?

First of all, you can do them yourself. Blogging is the most “low tech” of all the inbound marketing channels. It does require a computer, but it doesn’t require you to purchase expensive software (many of the lower level, but perfectly adequate, blog systems are available free of charge) and it doesn’t require specialized skills. All you need to do to get results is set up a simple blog and post to it regularly.

Blogs are affordable because search engines love to include blog posts in their free results – i.e. if you write some good blog posts, the search engines take care of it from there. Search engines want to deliver accurate and up-to-date information to their users, and a nice fresh blog post fits the bill perfectly. A solid blog post will put your name – and your expertise – in front of people who are already interested in buying what you offer.

Second, well-written blog posts offer searchers what they want: information and tools to help them make a good purchasing decision. Of course, you have to make sure not to ruin the whole effect by giving a blatant sales pitch (the elephants won’t take a drink if the lion jumps out at them before they even get to the water). If your blog offers real information in a low-key way, consumers will start to trust you, and they’ll stick around and buy.

Next week, we’ll look at what the HubSpot survey revealed about optimizing your ROI from your blog.

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