How to Get the Full Value from your MAP Software in 2015

A marketing automation platform (MAP) is a significant investment, yet few marketers get the full value. They limp through the year with a barely used MAP, and are then hard-pressed to justify the expense during the next year’s budget review.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Try a New Feature Every Week

Most marketing automation platforms come with a powerful suite of marketing automation tools. Unfortunately, not all marketers make use of the entire collection. In fact, many just stick to a familiar few and don’t even try out the rest. How do you know if a tool will be effective if you don’t try it out? The feature you’re ignoring could be the one to take your marketing to the next level.

But don’t just toy around with a feature for an hour and drop it. Make a commitment to try one new feature for a week every week. And ”trying” doesn’t just mean clicking a few buttons and opening a couple of menus. Spend the week learning about the feature. Examine use cases. Do trial runs and (if possible) create an actual scenario. You’ll learn more if you see it running in real life.

Then, at the end of the week, you’ll have a much more informed and realistic assessment of whether or not that particular feature works for you.

Expand Your Strategy to Match

Of course, using tools just for the sake of using them isn’t recommended. You need to first understand the features and capabilities and see how it can play into your current marketing strategy. If possible, you then expand your strategy in a way that you can make use of these tools. For instance, you have great content, but it just sits on your website. Using the MAP’s nurturing tools allows you to expand your content marketing strategy and push information out to customers in a timely manner. 

Also, good MAPs have tools that are meant to work together, not piecemeal. Using a collection of complementary MAP features will get you much more value than using them separately. Explore how the features connect, and you may get powerful results.

Include Others in the Loop

Marketing departments shouldn’t operate in a vacuum, and neither should your MAP. Marketing automation platforms can benefit teams across the entire organization, not just your own. For instance, the best MAPs include an option to integrate with CRMs to allow both the marketing and sales departments to share leads. Some MAPs also offer tools like surveys to collect customer feedback, which would be valuable to share with product development teams.

If you can incorporate more MAP features into your workflow, create supporting strategies, and integrate with more internal teams, you’ll be able to increase your marketing department’s value dramatically. Do it intelligently and consistently, and your marketing automation platform’s ROI will be measured in months, not years.

Keyword Research 101 - Learning to Talk the Talk

Guest post by Chris Frank, Marketing Director, TreeHouse Interactive

For marketers, one of the most important tasks when you come into a company is getting your footing quickly and “talking the talk.” What I mean by that is the ability to talk credibly about your industry and products. You want to connect with your target audiences out of the gate.

Unfortunately, most companies haven’t done the basics here and give their new marketer a double dose of executive bias and industry buzzwords. The best advice I can give marketers that go fresh into a company is to do your own homework. Nothing makes your marketing ineffective faster than blindly trusting what has gone before—especially if it didn’t work.

So how do you immerse yourself in the talk? It takes knowing about some important tools and techniques for identifying keywords, validating their use and creating your own core list as a result. By the way, this is also essential baseline work if you’re starting up a company and want to be sure your messaging is on track from the start.

Below is the rough step-by-step process I use for talking the talk. I don’t claim this to be the end all way to do this, just my technique in abbreviated form.

Brainstorm Your Keywords

You need a place to start. Viewing your product or service from a “what does it do” or functional level should give you 20+ keywords to work with. Then look at competitor sites. What keywords are they using in their metatags? Add them to your list. Also check sites like SpyFu and SEMRush. You’ll find out what keywords competitors are putting paid ads on and get a broader keyword picture. Another place to look is in analyst and consultant articles for your industry. Pay attention to headlines and topic sentences in particular. Gather up all these keywords in one spreadsheet and get ready to really dive in.

Find The Right Keywords To Focus On

This is where the fun begins. In this step you want to narrow down your keywords and then validate the right ones. While many corporate marketers will turn their nose up at affiliate marketer tools, I use one called Adword Analyzer to find untapped related keywords to find potential traffic on all keywords and get some insight into what the paid ad competition is like on them. So your list may expand a bit here first before you pare it down. Experiment with tools. There are many of them.

Look at high traffic words first. Which ones do you absolutely need to be found through when someone searches? Can you eliminate any that are competitor specific? You will find some you thought would be great, but have little to no traffic? Now you can whittle your list down to about 20 and then test.

Get Your Hands Dirty

Testing here means a lot of listening before you’re sure you have the right terms for talking the talk. An easy way to do this is to monitor their use in social media. When you use Twitter search, you can get the RSS feed for any results. This is raw information on who is using these keyword terms in what conversations. Subscribe to this feed with Google Reader, and it makes it easy to see all validation information in one place. How many mentions are you seeing for each keyword? What posts are being discussed around these keywords? Is it the type of discussion your company should be mentioned in? Also look at top search results for your list of keywords. Should your company be in those results or not? Modify your list—adding and taking away from it—until you’re comfortable with 10-20.

What This Research Is And Isn’t

It’s important to understand that this keyword research isn’t messaging. It’s a baseline for connecting effectively with customers and prospects. It will fuel on-track messaging, SEO/SEM, persona building, elevator pitches and unique selling positions later—which is really the next step in what to do with this research. What you’ll find if you do this work is that the words come easy when producing marketing deliverables instead of going through constant revision because it’s not quite right.

Thoughts? What have you found to help with keyword research?

Pitfalls to Getting Your Email Opened

Whether you’re a channel manager or marketer, it’s important that your email messages get opened and read. Running your channel effectively and filling your lead pipeline often depends on it. Yet I think there are many cases where companies shoot themselves in the foot. Getting people to open your email isn’t so much an art as it is avoiding common pitfalls. Below are some of the common pitfalls you should avoid. Knowing them will help you increase open rates and get people to engage with your company in the way you desire. Note that this post doesn’t deal with infrastructure required to get email delivered and opened. That is a topic for another day.

Pitfall #1: Oversaturating Your Database

Sending too much email is an easy thing to do. Between newsletters, alerts, and promotions, you can “burn” your list very easily. If you don’t already have a single person or committee overseeing email priorities and frequencies, it’s time you do. With most email service or demand generation providers, you’ll be able to see how many people are opting out of future communication and who they are. Anything approaching the 5% range on a single email campaign should send up red flags. You’re sending email too often. On the flipside, a .1 to .5% opt-out rate may indicate you’re not sending enough email. Check the type of people that are opting out as well. Are they your ideal target or important contacts you shouldn’t be losing? If your open rates are plummeting, it’s likely another sign that you’re sending too much.

Pitfall #2: Using Lame Subject Lines

Subject lines are your primary hook for getting partners, prospects and customers to open your email. Put some time and effort into them. They should be succinct and stand out without being cheesy (i.e. looking like spam). 35 characters or less is a good target for length. You want immediate understanding of what the benefit is of opening your email. If someone can’t see the whole subject line because it’s cut off in their email client, you can’t accomplish this. Focus on your relationship with them, on something they would want to know or on an emotions-based need. If you haven’t done the research to know what these things are, it’s time to start.

Pitfall #3: Betraying Trust

When someone gives you their email address, there is generally a certain amount of trust that goes along with it. The unwritten expectation is that you will deliver content that is of interest. News Flash!—no one cares you opened a new office location, so stop sending this kind of content.

Pitfall #4: Failing to Target

Many channel managers and marketers fail because they don’t segment their database and produce targeted communication. Marketing and IT buyers are very different, as are C-Suite and middle manager audiences. You can’t send the same message to all of them and expect it to resonate. Many companies also send the same message multiple times. Both of these mistakes contribute to lower open rates and more unsubscribes. 

Pitfall #5: Failing to Educate 

You need to train people how to interact with your email and let them know it’s coming. Asking people to add you to their safe sender list or address book is the single best thing you can do for deliverability. In turn, it will also help you get in front of more people and give you the chance to have your message opened. You should also be using live events to help increase email open rates. Whether these events are webinars or things like user and partner conferences, make people aware of the email they will receive and what the value is. These little education and awareness opportunities go a long way in getting more people engaged with your email.

Pitfall #6: Delivering the Same Old Thing

If you consistently try to squeeze dollars out of your database through promotional email campaigns, your open rates will inevitably end up in the toilet. This applies specifically to B2B marketers and channel managers. The same is true if you don’t switch things up like your newsletter content or don’t have professional looking communication. The idea is you want to provide consistent and readily apparent value in your communication. That value might start with an educational webinar, industry quick guide or white paper, or industry news and events. What I’m really talking about here is content marketing. By becoming a trusted source for information, not promotional spam, you encourage higher open rates and recognition of both your expertise and point of view.

Pitfall #7: Not Leveraging the Power of Social Media

Most demand generation systems now offer at least rudimentary social media integration. If not, program the integration with social media sites manually. If your message is of value to your market, teaches them something or shows them how they can improve their business, many of them will post your message to social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. My daughter recently got a promotional email from a major clothing chain that she and a friend frequent. The first thing my daughter did was share it on her Facebook page. Enabling the sharing of your email is a great way to expand campaign reach and opens. (Download our “Using Social Media in Demand Generation” webinar for more information on this point.)

What pitfalls have you fallen into with your email? What have you experienced by avoiding them?