Smart Insights Digital Marketing > The Marketing Strategy Blog Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:38:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 24 Email Marketing Tips to Improve CTR Thu, 22 Jan 2015 17:12:04 +0000 Practical ideas to test to get more from your email campaigns

Leads are the lifeblood of every digital business, and email marketing is a proven method to get leads and sales flowing. Email open and click-through rates can exceed those of other digital marketing methods; however, there are some best practices that you should follow to help your emails convert more efficiently. Get it wrong and you could just be wasting your time.

Recently, a family friend told me she was not happy with the results of her email marketing efforts. When I looked at the emails that she’d been sending out, I was surprised to see a full-page-width logo sitting on top of her message. Below the logo, she was using a three-column layout with two of the columns cluttered with 22 logos and icons and bold CTA’s. Not only could this trigger spam filters but it looks too busy. You have to have a clean and honest message, not just a sales pitch.

Best Practices for Email Etiquette

In order to maximize the chances of your emails being opened and read, you have to ensure you practice correct email etiquette to avoid being considered as a spammer. You must also make them look personal and natural.

How can you ensure your audience act on your call-to-action without making your email an obvious and pushy sales message? Adopting the following best practices can significantly improve the results of your email marketing campaign.

Subject Line Best Practices

In order to generate conversions, your emails need to provoke an interest. There are plenty of opinions on the topic of subject lines – some tips will work for your business and some might not. Tim Watson wrote an excellent article on Smart Insights in 2012 that encourages you not to follow subject line best practices, the tips that Tim mentioned will also work for some businesses, but not others. Regardless of opinion, subject line is important, whatever the goals of your email marketing campaigns. Here are some things to think about to help you achieve a good open-rate:

#1. Be personal and specific

You should write personally and be specific. “Is your dog nutritionally healthy?” is a better subject line than “Dog-owners! Provide your with dog a better diet”. Using your addressees’ first name in the subject line can also improve open rate, for example – “Matt, Is your dog nutritionally healthy?.

9086-400#2. Create a sense of urgency

One tip that works nicely for  some of my clients is to try to show your audience that they only have a limited amount time to react. There are many ways to make your subject line convey a sense of urgency.

“Two Days Only—Here’s a gift, on us!”. Using a headline like this, you are telling your customers they have to react quickly if they want to take up your opportunity. “Dog Training—Last few seats remaining”. In this subject line, you are telling your audience the product is scarce, so they should grab the last seat before it’s too late.

#3. Stimulate emotions

Fear, astonishment, curiosity, love, and hate are some of the feelings that you can play with in order to get your email opened. Try saying something your readership least expect: “Why your dog hates you”. Obviously subject lines like these have a time and a place so don’t go overboard.

#4. Don’t sell

Unless you have a special offer or giveaway, try not to pitch products in your subject line. A salesy subject line can lower your open rates. If you insist on using the subject line to sell then sell the benefits and not the product.

#5. Offer an incentive

You should plan your conversion or sale offer to include a perceived benefit for the reader. A free download is often a great conversion tool. Coupons, discounts, badges, and physical gifts are some of the other things that you can use. “Last Day: Claim your free T-Shirt”.

#6. Avoid spammy words

Email spam filters are now fairly intelligent. You want to avoid using spammy words as much as possible. A few years back this was much more important than it is now but you should still pay attention to which words you use.

Design Best Practices

Most email marketing management tools offer a decent number of pre-designed templates and extra design tools. You could also opt for a custom HTML design. A custom design or attractive template can convey your brand message and look attractive. Be careful not to go over the top with visual elements, or you might distract the readers from the conversion. Simplicity is often key. Here are some of the best email design practices to follow:

#7. Mind the width

When designing your email template, make sure that its maximum width doesn’t exceed 650 pixels. It’s best to keep it at 600 pixels. Anything beyond 650 pixels may not display properly in the email review pane.

Comparison of email widths

Comparison of email widths – courtesy of

#8. Avoid lots of images

A picture is worth 1000 words. However, Gmail and most of other email service providers don’t usually display images automatically. In addition, most spam filters will push an email with too many images into the spam folder. Try to restrict images to no more than 25-30% of your email to ensure good deliverability.

#9. A column too many

The family friend I mentioned above was using a three-column layout, which is something most email users are not accustomed to seeing. A conversion email should be simple, so that the readers may focus on the main message and action. Do not overload them with complex multi-column layouts – 1 or 2 columns is fine.

#10. Tag your images

Ensure you add Alt and Title text to your images. As already suggested, the images may not load, so it’s a good idea to turn your Alt text into an alternative call-to-action and link the image to your landing page.

#11. Design your CTA

While you shouldn’t use an image for your CTA, for obvious reasons (one mentioned above!), it’s a great idea to design your CTA as an action button. Your readers should be able to find out instantly where they need to click. Your CTA needs to stand out.

#12: Use a light background

Use dark text on a light background. It converts so much better than using coloured or dark backgrounds as it looks cleaner and more appealing to the eye.

#13. Format text and links

Formatting improves the readability of your email. Highlight key points by making them bold. Format links to be a different color to the rest of the body. Try to keep the style in-line with your branding and only use one font.

#14. Integrate social media

Try to include social sharing options in your emails. Make use of them to expand the reach of your email. You would be surprised how sharable a good email can be!

Content Best Practices

If you are confident that the above points are taken care of, you can move on to the content. It’s usually the content that will determine whether the person clicks-through, bounces or unsubscribes. Follow these best practices to increase conversions:

#15. Only have one CTA

To ensure your email performs, you must only give the readers one way of taking action. If you want your readers to buy dog-food, your whole email should be geared towards getting them to click through to your landing page. Don’t confuse your message by asking them to buy your product, download your eBook, follow you on Twitter and leave a review about you online – all in one email.

#16. Include multiple links

Having a single CTA doesn’t mean that you can’t have more than one link in your email. However, the links should still point to your landing page. Try to avoid external links.

#17. Keep it short and sweet

The longer your email, the less likely your readers will read it all the way to your CTA. If you feel it’s really important to write a detailed email, provide key information – possibly in the form of bullet points – right at the top, followed by your CTA, and then go on to provide more information below.

#18. Improve targeting

Segment your mailing list by using relevant attributes, such as buying history, average spending, geographic location, age, etc. When you organise your data and have defined segments, you can target different groups with different emails that appeal to those segments. If you are writing to your loyal customers, you could offer loyalty points. For new customers, you could offer a welcome discount. The better your targeting, the more efficiently your emails will convert.

#19. Provide clear contact information

You must provide your address and phone numbers in your email in order for it to look credible. Also include a helpline or email address to answer customer queries and resolve complaints. Your readers need to know what they can do if they want to make an inquiry or if something goes wrong.

#20. Match your email and landing page

Your email should work in harmony with your landing page in terms of the content, headline, look, and feel. Your readers should be able to instantly make the connection between the email they click and the page that opens.

#21. Provide Terms & Conditions

If your email asks people to buy your product or subscribe to a paid service, the transaction should be supported by the appropriate terms and conditions in order to sound credible. You should include a link to your Terms and Conditions page to boost the readers’ confidence.


#22. Use Tools

There’s a massive variety of tools which you can use to design your emails, evaluate your subject lines, and conduct A/B split testing to determine which particular version of your email converts better. Some of these tools come with built-in spam checkers and even human reviewers. You should select suitable tools for your business needs and make use of all the relevant features to improve the conversion performance of your emails.

#23. Monitor and Learn

Track your conversions with Google Analytics, as well as the software that the email marketing platform that you use provides. See which emails convert better than others and try to figure out why. Learn from your experience and don’t be afraid to experiment.

#24. Think mobile

Mobile phones and tablets are now the dominant choice of device to open emails. In 2013, 48% of emails were opened using a tablet or mobile phone. Ensure that when planning you campaign, you ensure you cater for this proportion of your subscribers. As ever, test your drafts on all the devices you can get your hands on.

Finally, anyone dealing with email marketing should be familiar with the CAN-SPAM Act. You may be liable to legal penalties if you violate these laws. If you have someone else managing your email marketing, make sure that they comply with the best practices recommended by law.

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State of B2B Digital Marketing in 2015 Thu, 22 Jan 2015 10:00:00 +0000 Which channels affect purchase decisions for B2B buyers?

BuyerSphere is an excellent report for B2B marketers from Base One that is now in its 5th Edition and has just been released. If you don’t know it, it reviews many aspects of B2B Digital Marketing with the focus on the decision-making process for B2B products and services by reviewing the behaviour and attitudes of over 200 B2B buyers for purchases over £20,000. Refreshingly the report focuses on ‘what buyers do’ and ‘not what marketers think’ with some enlightening findings.

This article shares the findings on how the buyers find information to support their decision-making process and how influential the source is in terms of realising that sale.

Where do businesses find their information on their supplier?

Those holding the purse strings or ‘influencers’ in the buying decision, use at least 2 different information sources when selecting their supplier. With the main sources being gathered from the supplier’s website, using search or seeking information from colleagues or friends as shown below. The report highlights that this year, recommendations has increased by 8% compared to 2013.



There were no significant differences reflected by the age of the respondent or level of experience, though results showed that those working in the IT and Procurement sector were more likely to have visited the supplier’s site.

How influential is the information that the buyer uses?

Considering ‘usage against influence’ which guides the buyer in their purchase, the matrix below for example shows that information from friends or colleagues ‘is the most useful but not necessarily the most widely used’ in making the end decision.


In terms of External Analyst reports, these were influential but rarely used and had a stronger weighting compared to customer testimonials or interviews with key experts.

You can download the Buyersphere B2B Marketing 2015 report here from BaseOne.



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10 free online marketing tools that every “hands-on” marketer should use Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:40:37 +0000 The best tools for understanding your online marketplace?

I find that on training courses, the tools I recommend to help marketers are always popular, especially the free tools… At a course I was asked for a list of “essential tools” for digital marketing, so here they are…

2015 update: I originally created this list in 2012 and thought it was due an update – the feed reader tools and keyword tools have changed.

We aim to review and compare tools for managing different digital activities on Smart Insights, so we have many of these tools covered in other posts, so I’ll link to these where relevant.

There’s a diverse mix of free tools available, one of the enjoyable aspects of working in digital marketing today. I’ll start with the most widely used. Please let us know about the “essential free tools” you use in the comments.

  • 1. Reviewing the latest developments in your industry

There still isn’t a better alternative than Google Alerts for reviewing mentions of your brand name, competitor or sector names by entering keywords, so it’s widely used.

Although RSS isn’t “in vogue” as it was 5+ years ago, I still find there’s no substitute for using this as a listening post for developments in your industry. When I wrote the previous post I used Google Reader to categorise sites to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in digital. When Google withdrew this since there was no revenue in it (Boo!) I used Reeder as an offline client on my Macbook Air and iOS for a while. But now I recommend Feedly since it’s the most popular so you can see by the ‘voice of the crowd’ which posts are most popular.  Similar to the feature in PostRank that Google also killed off. Although feed readers aren’t in fashion they are the most efficient way to scan the latest news in different categories. So if you don’t use them try Feedly out – our analytics shows it’s one of the most common referrers to Smart Insights – do bookmark us!

Feedly tool 2015

  • 2. Managing social media updates

I’ve used Hootsuite for posting updates to social networks and reviewing what others are saying for nearly five years now after using Tweetdeck back in the day – Twitter killed that one off for general use. Hootsuite seems to be comfortably the most popular free tool for posting and reviewing social media updates, but many still don’t know it, it can be used as a personal social media management tool too. It enables you to quickly post to all the main social networks including Google+ company pages and review conversations and messages. I’ve trialled many paid tools, but none come close. The paid version is worthwhile IMO for adding campaign tracking and extra reports.

  • 3. Finding influencers

There is no single free tool that works well for this – please suggest alternatives. You can use reputation tools like Klout, Kred or Peerindex, but I find that the use of Twitter autofollow means that this often skews the results.

Influencer tools

LinkedIn sector skills used to be the best source for finding business influencers because of grouping by narrower topics – but LinkedIn killed this – monetisation again. LinkedIn advanced search is probably the best replacement.

LinkedIn Skills

I’m interested to know alternatives readers use here – please share in the comments or on social!

  • 4. Understanding customer search behaviour

With search still driving the majority of visits, leads and sales for most businesses online, I believe that even marketers who outsource their SEO need to understand different types of customer behaviour when searching to help develop strategies for getting visibility AND creating content and messages to help meet consumer needs.

When I first wrote this post I recommended the Google Keyword Tool, but now it’s been renamed to the Google Keyword Planner, but is still an indispensable tool alongside the Google Webmaster Tools integration now that The Growth of Not Provided keywords means we can’t use analytics reliably to find referring keywords.  The Google Keyword Planner (tutorial) is still indispensable for this – I don’t think I have ever done a client training or consulting project where I haven’t used it! It’s harder to get to now it’s integrated into Google AdWords, but it’s still free if you don’t invest in AdWords.

Google keyword tool tutorial

Google Insights for search has now been folded into Google Trends essential for understanding seasonal search behaviour trends in different countries.

Google also has additional SEO analysis tools from Google Webmaster Tools which you can embed into Google Analytics as described by James Gurd in this post.

Ubersuggest is also useful for summarising the Suggest/Autocomplete behaviour in different countries to check your covering the main behaviours.


As I was researching this post for 2015 I noticed a new ‘Tool on the Block’ for keyword analysis – check out It’s like UberSuggest, but with better formatting – I often use this to show how local consumer behaviour differs, for example I was giving a training workshop to a Shredders manufacturer – quite a different term en France par example:

KeyWord Tool example

  • 5. Competitor site benchmarking

It used to be that Google AdPlanner was unbeatable for comparing audience size and dimension. That’s been folded into AdWords as the Campaign Planner and now limited to media sites, but still useful for finding size and quality of audience for partner and media sites and don’t forget about the related Google Placement Targeting Tool useful for remarketing and research.

Today, my ‘go to’ tool for benchmarking is Similar Web, a freemium tool launched in 2013 and offering free stats on all sites including referrers. Here’s how Smart Insights looks:

Similar Web Benchmarking


Chris Soames has a another post here on the main sites for competitor benchmarking. You will probably have to fall back on Alexa or Compete today which don’t tend to give realistic estimates outside of the US. I have also have an in-depth post recommending many other online competitor benchmarking tools.

  • 6. Off-page backlink analysis for SEO

Lots of tools in this category, see our comparison of 6 best backlink analysis tools.

Of these, Majestic and Moz Open Site Explorer have to be the “must use” tools. I think for non-SEOs, the Backlink History is great for basic benchmarking of competitor success in gaining backlinks although link quality isn’t shown.
Majestic SEO

  • 7. On-page markup analysis for SEO

Hubspots Site, now Marketing Grader for reviewing on-page for SEO is often mentioned as a useful tool by people on courses.

For reviewing on-page markup like headings and also mobile screen resizing I find Chris Pederick’s Web Developer Toolbar for Chrome and Firefox essential. The Moz Toolbar is better from an SEO POV. Here’s an example of the overlay to show our ‘semantic markup':

  • 8. Understanding overall online marketing effectiveness

I believe that Google Analytics or an equivalent is essential for all who work in marketing to master at some level.

To help here, we have many articles of advice you can access from our Google Analytics hub. The most popular is on using Google Analytics for social media marketing.

Google Analytics

If you know all these tools, try the Google Agency Toolkit where they group all their tools together.

I hope this compilation is useful, what do you find most useful of the digital marketing tools we have covered here and other tools we don’t?

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15 practical tips for marketing a startup in 2015 Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:10:00 +0000 Review your approach to marketing with limited budget

How to build – Start-up Marketing 101

Recently, we attended Denver Startup week, which inspired us to create a short ‘How To’ Guide that digs into issues related to getting a start-up off the ground – building on the ‘How to build requirements for an MVP‘ and our white paper on ‘Tips every first-time entrepreneur should know.

This article mamepecifically focuses on how to develop a marketing strategy as a start-up, with lessons learned from experts, as well as advice on tools of the trade and how to measure and analyze your progress.

15 Marketing tips for start-ups

Tip #1

The key advice that you always have to keep at the top of everything you do is:

  • Get your product out the door – with emphasis on speed over perfection. Your product doesn’t need to be perfect, because you don’t even know what ‘perfect’ is at this point. Instead, keep calm and keep shipping.

What does this mean for start-up marketing?

It means that you shouldn’t market a product until you actually have one, or at least have a beta program and a concrete delivery date. Of course you can do some preliminary ‘smoke test’ stuff to collect emails and validate your idea, but what good is having a serious and structured marketing program before you have a product (or as least a concrete delivery date of said product)? And while you should be doing some marketing and PR to gain company awareness, don’t get ahead of yourself by sinking money into product marketing campaigns before you have a product to sell.

Focus on what matters first, even though it’s tempting to get distracted with gratifying but often useless things like gaining Facebook likes and Twitter followers.

Tip #2

This brings us to our second tip:

  • Be careful with social media. Doing it right requires a huge time commitment, so if you can’t keep up with it, don’t bother starting. That being said, if you can launch and run a sustained social media campaign and it is not distracting you from your No. 1 objective of shipping your product, then by all means, tweet away! You can also hire an agency to help you build and sustain a social media effort if it’s not something you can focus on. There are plenty of good reasons to have a social media campaign while you’re building your product, depending on your business objectives.

Now where do you begin with start-up marketing?

  • Writing is the most important secondary skill of a startup. Writing takes skill (and hence, practice). You want to get across what you need to say in as few words as possible – think elevator pitch or a back-of-the-napkin overview.

    Blogging is also essential – to increase search is the obvious reason (SEO), but the less obvious reason is to establish yourself as a thought-leader. Providing your audience with accurate and valuable information, without asking for something in return, builds your credibility and your reputation.

    The key objective is to take a stance on a topic, rather than simply reporting what other people have already said. You may be wrong or you may be right, but the point is to start a dialogue. You personify the company.

Tip #3

  • Follow the keep-it-simple-stupid (KISS) principle. Don’t overcomplicate pieces by being too wordy or relying on jargon. For example, don’t use the word ‘utilize’ rather than ‘use’ or rely on marketing buzzwords like ‘revolutionary’ and ‘innovative’ to describe your company or product.

    If you can make your point in five words rather than 20, use the five-word version. The simpler you make the idea, the faster someone will understand how you can help them and the more likely they are to buy.

    Take a look at ly; this is a great online tool that can help correct your wordiness, passive voice and other problems. There are also firms for outsourced blog writing, which some local start-ups even offer

    However, we recommend that you don’t outsource your start-up marketing until you have dedicated resources internally to support your plan.

Tip #4

  • Now what? How should you determine your startup marketing strategy? The best advice is to try, measure, analyze and repeat. Don’t be afraid to try quirky things. Chalkboard signs at bars and restaurants are a perfect example; they will offer an item as a special and if it does well, it gets added to the menu.

    The medium isn’t important; it’s all about the message. So play around and see what sticks. Don’t be afraid to do something weird.

    Personally, I have been experimenting lately with ly and it, and I’ve had some successes and some failures. Keep a log of everything you try; integrate what works into your repertoire and trash the rest.

  • Challenge your assumptions. Just because something is working, it doesn’t mean it’s best for your business. For example, just because your bounce rate is 30 percent, don’t assume that’s good enough.

    By challenging your assumptions, you may realize that a change is needed, which is especially true for the start-up marketers at the pointy end of the spear.Take a look at The Lean Startup.

    Don’t just experiment as an exercise – actually pivot when it needs to happen and be ready to commit to the pivot at a certain point. The minimum viable product approach helps you do this.

  • Don’t be afraid to steal. All’s fair out there. Steal tactics and especially competitor’s pricing as much as possible. If you’re not stealing, then you probably aren’t doing a good job figuring out what your competitors are offering.

Tip #5

  • 1. Tools of the trade – Which social media channel should you use? If you have a B2B business model, consider Twitter and LinkedIn. If your audience is mostly consumers, try Facebook. Experiment on all and measure results. Then, focus your energy on the platforms that provide the most value.
  • 2. Paid search testing can also help augment your social media efforts, and measure your return/acquisition upfront, per channel.
  • 3. Penetrating LinkedIn groups with your thought-leadership pieces can also be effective. (It’s worked for us). However, it’s hard to differentiate between a company and a thought-leader at the company. LinkedIn still hasn’t figured that out.
  • 4. Then there are blogging platforms like WordPress, which are good for aggregating domain authority. Tumblr won’t give you the domain authority or any long-term leverage. Ultimately, you can use anything that has a good infrastructure that ties in to search. An argument could be made that Google+ will be the next solid platform because it’s closely tied to search results (too bad no one is using it).

Tip #6

  • Experiment and learn. Try A/B testing using tools like Optimizely and Unbounce, which allow you to experiment with similar, but slightly different variations of marketing collateral side-by-side in order to determine which option customers prefer.You can also try MailChimp, which allows you to experiment with email newsletters, and Sharpspring, which offers landing page variations.
  • Paid search is also an effective research tool. You can advertise products that don’t exist to test demand. Use word strings from Adwords, which will help you come up with your phrasing.

Tip #7

  • The key to successful startup marketing is prioritization. Time is always an issue – and there’s an opportunity cost with everything you do. If you spend time on social media, for example, you’re taking time away from product development. Also, try to get comfortable with the fact that there’s always more you can do, so be willing to maintain this perspective and focus on what’s most important.

    Peter Drucker’s quote sums it up: ‘There’s nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that shouldn’t be done at all.’

What can you do to make the biggest impact? Do that. And of course, if you get stuck, we can help.

Tip #8

  • How do you know when your start-up marketing is actually working? Here are a few suggestions we’ve come up with to tackle this question from a process perspective and ensure that your start-up marketing evolves appropriately:
  • 1. Analytics through a cross-disciplinary approach: Look at the Obama 2013 campaign – the campaign director managed the creative team and the analytics team simultaneously, which allowed a great deal of synergy to flow between each discipline. (Incidentally, we are big proponents of the cross-disciplinary approach, including theDevOps movement).The idea during the Obama campaign was to constantly test creative, vary and analyze, all in-house.You can also do this by using the Google Analytics app– just make it a habit to check every day to see how you’re doing so that you can react accordingly.

    And remember, correlations do not equal causation, so don’t step on to the jump-to-conclusions mat too quickly (a reference to ‘Office Space’ for all you movie buffs out there). Keep in mind sample sizes, test cases, variance and more. Don’t just pivot on a dime with only 10 responses.

  • 2. More data is not always better. A big problem with big data is that it is paralyzing. Make your data actionable. Build test cases with hypotheses and outcomes (agile Web design stories). At some point you have to do something, so decide in advance what you will do if that trigger comes. ‘If I don’t get any email signups in a week, I’m going to change the CTA on my landing page’ – and then actually make changes.

    In other words, think in advance of the actions you will take once specific triggers are reached and specific goals are hit around your start-up marketing analytics program. This will help ensure that your start-up marketing evolves appropriately.

  • 3. It’s not all about numbers. Another way to say this is quality can be more important than quantity, and so it’s important to dig in to the statistics at a low level. Yelp is fascinating – look how much time some people spend writing reviews.If you’re a small business owner with Yelp reviews, often it’s not actually about quantity but about quality of a single post or comment.

    You shouldn’t be afraid of negative comments and reviews you may receive as a result of executing your start-up marketing tactics, because these are what you’re going to learn the most from. The quality of these can often be better than the hard metrics, just don’t get too hung up on them.

Tip #9

  • Turn big problems into smaller ones.If you feel stuck on a big task – break it down into smaller and smaller chunks until you can do the sub-tasks at a granular level. This technique is super helpful and will help you start to tackle those daunting tasks.

Tip #10

  • Tracking your time doing start-up marketing is tedious but important. Track your time in five-minute increments and then log it. Then you will realize how much time you’re wasting on certain things and how long certain things really take, and you can continue to fiddle the start-up marketing nobs. A good productivity tool can and will actually change your behavior and help you to work smarter.

Tip #11

  • Avoid big builds and big programs with a big-bang approach. Although this is more of a product development tip, I thought I’d throw it in here because all startup marketers should ALSO be clamoring for this. Trying to anticipate problems before they happen is a waste of time. As a marketer, you should be OK with imperfection and look at is as a way to engage your target audience and garner feedback. When they see you listened to them in the next build, they will be wowed!

Tip #12

  • If you’re a start-up and don’t have a lot of money, these tools are your friends.
  • 1. Free trials:  If you sign up for trials, take advantage of the high-touch support teams – especially for free trials offered by start-ups that care about your feedback. This can sometimes lead to an extended trial or more features for free or a reduced price.
  • 2. Free tools: This may sound obvious, but there are actually quite a lot of free tools you can take advantage of for your start-up marketing program that can do the job 99 percent of the time.For example, Google Analytics is the way to go until you’re at an Omniture level ,which you won’t need until you are well-funded. Don’t get hung up on needing to have the absolute best (or have whatever it was you used when you had your day job). Just use what is cheap and functional, even if it’s not pretty.
  • 3. Ferret out UI weakness: Consider using heat map technology to track the Web actions of your users. You can do this through Google Analytics in real-time mode, but there are actually specific tools out there that are more robust as purpose-built, such as MouseFlow. Through this tool, you can watch video commentating live of people actually using your product (live feedback). It’s painful (and often laborious, especially when they’re not getting certain aspects). But it’s extremely elucidating.

Tip #13

  • ‘How much does my personal brand matter, and should I work on improving it? Or is this just a waste of time?‘ Unequivocally yes – you are your brand. For things like Google Authorship (discontinued), the idea was to add credibility to your marketing. With authenticity, your product and your content feels less shady and more authentic. People trust people not machines. Your start-up marketing program will be the better for strengthening the personal brands of your team-members.

Hopefully these tips have sparked a few ideas about how you can analyze and manage your start-up marketing program. As always, if you feel lost, or just want a sounding board – we’re here to help.

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Is this the social media backlash? Wed, 21 Jan 2015 09:00:00 +0000 We ask is social media marketing “Mostly a waste of time”?

Are some marketers so obsessed by social media that they are not investing enough budget and attention on traditional advertising and marketing? This is what is increasingly being suggested by some commentators. For example, in this recent talk, Mark Ritson, Associate Professor of Marketing and Branding and Columnist on ‘Marketing Week’ acknowledges that ‘social media is an amazing tool’ but states that it is ‘mostly a waste of time‘ and suggests that our focus is wrong when he says:

‘Marketers are putting too much emphasis on social media due to the hype in the media, and are forgetting how powerful traditional advertising and marketing can be’.

Some marketers and PR professionals like Nicola Swankie from Society felt the need to respond to his video on behalf of Social Media Practitioners. She responded in a long post reminding him that

‘Social media has given us the new power that people have is vital to consider for any marketer, because it’s shifted marketing forever — it’s given us the control to personalize and choose the media we see and it’s given us a voice.’

She says that great marketing should engage – it shouldn’t be something people want to ignore. But Social, is the most honest of any media and so it’s where lazy, unengaging marketing is most in evidence. That is not a reason to ignore Social, it should be a challenge to us all to think about how to make our marketing more compelling and relevant.’ Well said!

Are marketers guilty of an infantile fantasy, as Bob Hoffman says?

Here’s another case where a respected marketer lays into social media marketing. Bob Hoffman a traditional ad man, you may know as author of the Ad Contrarian, has this withering quote delivered at Advertising Week Europe which featured in AdRants.

‘The theory that people want to engage with brands online and share their enthusiasm with their friends, and that their friends will share their enthusiasm with other friends through social media channels has turned out to be an infantile fantasy’

What do the research and analytics insights tell us ?

At Smart Insights we believe that the union of content and social media marketing has created a fantastic platform for creative businesses to engage audiences leading ultimately to increased reach, preference and ultimately sales.

At the same time we like to go beyond opinion and look at the analytics which many of the commentators don’t get into.

When we look at  the analytics you do see a relatively low proportion of visits are driven by social in many sectors, particularly retail where you might expect it would be much higher if you believe the hype. For example benchmarks from SimilarWeb shows traffic sources in different sectors and here it shows that, indeed social is insignificant compared with search, direct and referrals from other sites.

US online marketing statistics

You can argue that ‘dark social traffic’ such as direct referrers from mobile are not counted in analytics and there is a ‘halo’ effect like that which we see with display ads which means that social media will drive searches and direct visits – this is probable, but hard to quantify. Despite the big picture pained above, it suggests that search and affiliates are far more important to retailers and warrant the serious attention.

A last click approach to reviewing the impact of social media in sales can be misleading since often social media updates may generate initial awareness, but conversion occurs in a subsequent visit following a search or direct visit.

If we review media attribution analytics there is a similar pattern for retailers. A couple of years ago I wrote this post to highlight this Forrester: Facebook and Twitter do almost nothing for Sales?  For new customers social media is at the bottom of the list. Suggests to me the commentators were right to call out the hyping of social media…?

How do active marketers rate social media in comparison with other media?

In our Managing Digital Marketing 2015 research in association with TFM&A 2015 event, we wanted to explore the perceptions of marketers at the ‘front line’ of digital engagement.

Our research paints a different picture, showing that although Search and Email are rated highly, many marketers do rate social media as effective at generating leads and volumes. For example, a third of marketers rate organic social media updates at the highest or medium highest for effectiveness.


What do these Expert commentators think?

Gerraint Holliman, Director of Strategy and Head of Content Marketing at DIRECTIONGROUP acknowledges the potential value of social media but questions how social media is being used by companies, he believes that ‘most marketers are willfully misusing it’. He puts this down to a misperception of how we use social media explaining:

most marketers see social media as a communications medium in the same way as they would see advertising or direct marketing: one-way, interruptive, broadcast messaging. Until marketers wake up to the fact that the beauty of social media is that digital channels enable customers to speak back to you then it will continue its downward spiral into redundancy.’

Kieran Flanagan, HubSpot’s EMEA Marketing Director doesn’t feel there is any backlash against social media and says he sees the return if it’s measured and used properly. He feels it’s a victim of its own hype and expectations were unrealistic:

I do think it was initially over hyped by marketers. Most people on social media are not in buying mode so how you market to them has to be different. It’s also becoming more competitive. When you have a lot more business in the market spending money for the same audiences attention, some of those businesses are not going to be happy with their results‘.

Ian Brodie, a consultant and author who advises businesses on generating sales recommends looking at the value of social media as integrating communications, he is an advocate of marketing channels working together. He says:

It’s how the channels work together that’s important in my view, not which one is ‘best’. After all, what use is email without search, content and social media to get you subscribers in the first place? What about the ability of email to bootstrap blog views and social sharing, or to segment audiences for retargeting?

For him last year, the ‘emphasis seems to have been on integrating digital and traditional marketing. And while this is a great start, it’s all still very channel-centric. The focus is on which channel is the most effective.’

Deborah Lee, an international speaker and consultant focusing on social media says from her experiences on social media that many companies are struggling to use it, but are still seeing engagement on the major social platforms. She says:

 ‘I’d only advise businesses to walk away from social media when user numbers start to tail off, and there is no sign of that happening any time soon’.

So, there’s a clear message from the commentators we asked – Social Media and Content Marketing are here to stay, but we need to get more savvy at how to balance consumer engagement and sales impact.

What do you think?


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Optimising your transaction emails [Infographic] Tue, 20 Jan 2015 14:20:00 +0000 How you can you dramatically increase your ecommerce sales with transactional emails

Transactional emails are a fascinating and often overlooked part of the ecommerce marketing landscape. Many business owners not only don’t take advantage of them but also don’t even have a clear idea of what they are. This is a shame because if harnessed properly, ‘transactionals’ can offer some truly remarkable benefits to those who use them for increased conversions and sales.

Now, we’re going to cover some effective marketing strategies and statistics for a select list of key transactional emails but before we do, a quick run-down of what transactional emails are.

So what are transactional emails?

In simple terms, transactional emails are the email messages you send to users of your site or application whenever they specifically, individually interact with either.

Thus, when someone joins your site and gets a welcome email or loads up their shopping cart or makes an order and gets a shipping notification or asks a customer service related question and receives a response from your site they’re receiving a transactional email.

Unlike bulk messages, transactionals are sent to specific customers for specific reasons that relate to their recent transactions and this means that they get more attention from your users. This is what makes these emails so valuable as marketing vehicles.

Now, let’s get down to strategy for several key transactional message types.

  • Welcome emails

Welcome emails are some of the most important transactional emails around. These are normally sent when somebody newly joins your website or buys from you for the first time after opening a user account.

When optimized well, welcome emails can really bring in the money. In many cases, they can average revenues of $5.83 per email sent, which is an enormous contrast to the 53 cents that the average bulk promotional email generates.

Some key things to make your welcome emails perform well: Include special offers in the email subject line and body text, this has been known to increase transaction rates by as much as 4.01%. You can also try serializing the emails into a small series of messages. Doing this can increase transaction rates by as much as 40% and also boost overall clicks and conversions.

  • Sales receipts

Sales receipts have possibly the highest open rates of any kind of transactional email message. One average, their open rate is about 114%! This is because users often open a single one of these emails more than once.

Optimizing your sales receipt emails can be best done by simple things like adding a ‘thank you’ to their subject line. This alone can boost open rates by a whopping 35%! Additionally, you can also add social media links to your company’s profiles inside the receipt email body. This has been shown to increase click-throughs by a very nice 55%.

  • Abandoned cart emails

On average, some 67% of your users will abandon their shopping cart before they actually get to the buying stage. You can turn this unfortunate number around quite a bit by sending out transactional emails that notify them of what they’ve done. Furthermore, by adding some of the abandoned items in the email subject line, you can also increase clicks by about 10%. And adding additional related product recommendations inside the emails themselves can further boost clicks by 50% more.

Abandoned cart notifications have a diminishing effectiveness over time. 40% of users are likely to open one the first time around while only 27% will do so the second and third time they receive one.

  • Shipping confirmations

Shipping confirmations, thanks to the valuable purchase related information they contain, also have a very high open rate of a whopping 107%.

They can be optimized by including cross-sell offers for additional products or services that relate to what your customers originally bought. This has been shown to boost transaction rates by 20%.

Furthermore, you can also use these emails to save money and time on customer service inquiries. This can be done simply by including all sorts of order relevant information in a shipping confirmation right off the bat. This includes info such as tacking numbers, shipping times, delivery time information and a link to a page where customers can follow their orders progress through the mail.

  • Product reviews

Nothing gains the respect of possible customers like a positive third party review from a previous buyer. This is why getting a collection of product reviews from real clients of yours is essential to success. You can later link to these reviews in all of your promotional material and in your other transactional emails.

After your customers have bought from you, give them several days or a couple of weeks to see how their purchase suits them and then ask for a review of the product.  By adding the word ‘review’ in the email you send them, you can boost the open rate of these messages by 28% or more.

This Infographic provides a good template for different emails to ensure you optimize engagement:


Key Takeaway on Transactional Emails

  • Transactional emails have to stay transactional in nature, even while used for promotion
  • Your transactional emails will gain much more customer attention than bulk marketing emails
  • Transactional emails are sent to specific customers for specific reasons
  • Optimize welcome emails, shipping confirmations and abandoned cart notifications by using them to cross-sell related products
  • Always be polite and say thank you in your transactional emails, it boosts conversions
  • Ask your customers for real product reviews, in terms of promotional success, they’re worth their weight in gold
  • Each ecommerce campaign has its own unique series of transactional emails, feel free to experiment in your own particular circumstances

Some final advice

The above are only a few major types of transactional emails. There are others that might be highly specific to your ecommerce business type. Experiment with all of them and don’t be afraid to get creative on using your transactional emails for promotion of new products.

Also, if you want even more information of a much more visually appealing sort, check out the infographic that the above information is based on right here. It was put together by Easy SMTP who offer Email Management services.

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Introducing RACE: a practical framework to improve your digital marketing Tue, 20 Jan 2015 10:25:38 +0000 The RACE Digital Marketing Planning Framework

We created RACE to help digital marketers plan and manage their activities in a more structured way since we found that many don’t have a marketing strategy. In this post, first published in July 2010 and since updated with the a new summary of digital marketing KPIs you should track, we show how you can simplify your measurement and reporting through RACE Planning.

You can find more details about applying RACE for Internet Marketing Planning in our free Internet marketing template download and it is used by our Expert members to create digital plans using our Digital Strategy Toolkit.

To explain what’s involved with RACE Planning we created this Digital Strategy infographic updated for 2015.  It shows the Key measures to set targets for and evaluate at each stage of the funnel.

Race Digital Strategy Funnel infographic
What does RACE stand for?

The RACE mnemonic summarises the key online marketing activities that need to be managed as part of digital marketing. RACE covers the full customer lifecycle or marketing funnel from:

(Plan) > Reach > Act > Convert > Engage

There is also an initial phase of Plan involving creating the overall digital strategy, objective setting and plan, so sometimes members call it PRACE, but we prefer RACE Planning for simplicity.  There’s more detail at the end of the post in the infographic and the planning process is explained in detail in our RACE Digital Marketing course.

We have defined four steps of engagement across the customer lifecycle, since in online marketing there is a major challenge in gaining interaction and participation with prospects after the initial customer touchpoint. These interactions, covered in the Act step can take place over several channels and touchpoints such as web, mobile, social media and email contacts, so they need separate management from final conversion to online or offline sale.

RACE consists of four steps or online marketing activities designed to help brands engage their customers throughout the customer lifecycle.

  • 1 Reach. Reach involves building awareness of a brand, its products and services on other websites and in offline media in order to build traffic by driving visits to different web presences like your main site, microsites or social media pages. It involves maximising reach over time to create multiple interactions using different paid, owned and earned media touchpoints.
  • 2 Act. Act is short for Interact. It’s a separate since encouraging interactions on websites and in social media to generate leads is a big challenge for online marketers.  It’s about persuading site visitors or prospects take the next step, the next Action on their journey when they initially reach your site or social network presence. It may mean finding out more about a company or its products, searching to find a product or reading a blog post. You should define these actions as top-level goals of the funnel in analytics. Goals can include “Viewed product”, “Added to Basket”, “Registered as member” or “Signed up for an enewsletter.Act is also about encouraging participation. This can be sharing of content via social media or customer reviews (strictly, part of Engage).The specific goals and dashboard need to be defined for each business as explained in our Delivering results from digital marketing guide.  It’s about engaging the audience through relevant, compelling content and clear navigation pathways so that they don’t hit the back button. The bounce rates on many sites is greater than 50%, so getting the audience to act or participate is a major challenge which is why we have identified it separately.
  • 3 Convert. This is conversion to sale. It involves getting your audience to take that vital next step which turns them into paying customers whether the payment is taken through online Ecommerce transactions, or offline channels.
  • 4 Engage. This is long-term engagement that is, developing a long-term relationship with first-time buyers to build customer loyalty as repeat purchases using communications on your site, social presence, email and direct interactions  to boost customer lifetime value. It can be measured by repeat actions such as repeat sale and sharing content through social media.We also need to measure percentage of active customers (or email subscribers) and customer satisfaction and recommendation using other systems.


We created the RACE Planning system to help give a simple framework to help small and large businesses alike take best advantage of the opportunities available from digital marketing. There are so many tools and tactics available that it’s difficult to know where to start. We hope RACE gives a structure to help you review and prioritise when there are so many options, but some options work better than others.

RACE is a practical framework to help manage and improve results from your digital marketing. Ultimately it’s about using best practice web analytics techniques to get more commercial value from investments in digital marketing. We hope it will help simplify your approach to reviewing the performance of your online marketing and taking actions to improve its effectiveness.

Using KPIs to manage RACE

In our 2011 Marketing manifesto we explained that we believe growing business through digital marketing should be based on a sound evaluation and optimisation process using digital analytics showing which marketing activities are effective and which aren’t. This is an updated version of the diagram we used to introduce RACE in 2010 gives examples of key performance indicators (KPIs) at each stage. It’s part of PlanToSucceed 2014 slideshare recommendations.

RACE framework KPIs

Here’s an example of our recommended measures in a simpler summary of RACE KPIs which could form a dashboard – the best dashboards show not only volume and how they change through time, but also the quality of visits and the value generated.


Many of these KPIs be created from Google Analytics although it needs to be customised for each business to record goal value or revenue per visit. For some other measures such as social mentions you need to pull in from other tools.

Marketing activities to manage within RACE

All of our guidance on Smart Insights from our blog posts to detailed guides and templates are structured according to RACE. This is a summary of some of the main activities which our guides, templates and free blog guidance cover – we have created an interactive version of this planning framework where you can click through to relevant sections on this diagram.

Of course, there are many more online marketing activities which are covered in our full sitemap of hub pages.


Google Analytics has over 60 reports displaying many more metrics and that’s before you start segmenting your audience… Other web analytics tools have more… This makes it difficult to know what to report; you have to identify your “critical few” Key Performance Indicators which you report on regularly to review performance and identify problems. Here we have suggested just 3 KPIs for each area which apply for a retail site. We’ll have more on these and related performance drive measures in later posts.

RACE is Social! Digital marketing is not just about your website

Digital marketing today is not just about your website, and in fact it never has been, partnering with other sites and “swimming with the fishes” has always been important.

But today, the popularity of participation in social media with web users means that how to reach, interact, convert and maintain ongoing engagement of customers through social networks is vital to the success of a brand. At each step in RACE you need to think how social media can help achieve your goals and how you can measure the effectiveness of social media.

RACE is integrated

Digital channels always work best when they’re integrated with other channels, so remember that where appropriate, digital channels should be combined with the traditional offline media and channels.  The most important aspects of integration are first using traditional media to raise awareness of the value of the online presences and drive visitors to the website(s) at the Reach and Engage stages. Second, at the Convert and Engage steps stage customers may prefer to interact with customer representatives as part of the buying or customer service process.

So that’s an introduction to the Smart Insight RACE framework. We hope you find it useful when you’re planning and managing digital marketing!


RACE is an evolution of the REAN (Reach > Engage > Activate > Nurture) framework for web analytsts originally developed by Xavier Blanc and popularised by Steve Jackson in his book Cult of Analytics.

We devised RACE since we wanted to develop our own approach for improving digital marketing and we feel Step 2 is more about initial interactions with a brand and in step 4, customer engagement is a longer-term process.

Through 15 years of advising marketers through my books and training I’ve found that, after time has passed, all that often remains from the course as a takeaway is a framework on which to hang future actions. C’est la vie! But busy people seem to like frameworks and mnemonics to structure their actions. To help digital marketers structure their thoughts, over the years I’ve created or been involved with these frameworks too – I hope you find they’re useful – that’s what we aim for – to make marketing life simpler and more profitable.

  • The 5Ss of online marketing (PR Smiths suggestions on goals from our Emarketing Excellence book)
  • SOSTAC® – a method for structuring digital marketing planning (again developed by Paul Smith)
  • CRITICAL – a practical way of improving Email Marketing
  • The 6 key digital media channels for traffic building options

And of course it’s why we’re called SMART Insights. Here are some more details defining the difference between the difference stages and how they’re used.

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Where Does Digital Change Management Come From? Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:15:12 +0000 A review of digital change management – examining ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’methods

“Like so many other revolutions, digital marketing has taken hold from the bottom up. Here, we find digital natives steeped in digital culture and practice — twenty- and thirty-somethings who came of age on the social web.”

Jake Sorofman, The Rise of the Digital CMO

We often think of Senior Management as being the drivers of change within a business. After all, it is they who have they experience to see when change is necessary, and them who have the power to enact the change itself. However, as the quote above suggests, this is somewhat of a fallacy in the current climate – digital change has bubbled like a kind of ‘groundswell’, often meeting executives who are almost unaware.

Bottom Up Change is Commonplace

There are few better practical illustrations of change coming from the bottom than the growth of social media as a business tool from 2006, then rising in magnitude from around 2009. In an atmosphere where senior management were often unaware of the booming growth, and what it meant, company employees took it upon themselves to create and manage relevant company accounts. It would have been extremely rare for a top level executive to begin these changes.

But such rapid and often unregulated change can throw up its own pitfalls. A 2012 Altimeter paper by Jeremiah Owyang A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation found that the average company of over 1,000 employees had 178 different social media accounts! It was often reported that many of these accounts had ‘died’ (were no longer being updated), the passwords were lost or they were being run by Interns. In all of these scenarios, it could be very damaging to the company involved!

Middle Management Responsibility

The rapidity of change driven by social media is an unusual case, but it is still possibly the biggest change that faced marketing departments in the last decade. Nevertheless, most companies have been able to properly structure their social media activities and halt the groundswell of fragmentation as illustrated above.

Oftentimes, introducing structures and governance has been the job of middle management – being low down enough to see the very bottom up changes, yet high enough to gain senior support and budgets.

Top Down, Bottom Up

Middle management therefore have a vitally important role to play in digital change management, and it is in their skill of meeting both top down and bottom up demands and pressures that can ultimately lead a business through the process.

Top down bottom up change management

Middle management are the very epicentre of Top Down, Bottom Up change management. Model from Neil Perkin (Econsultancy) Digital Transformation: Securing Board Buy in Best Practice Guide.

It is also very likely that middle management will become the major ‘change agents’ within a business. So long as they are given the right level of entrepreneurial freedom by the board, they should be the agents for change within an organisation.

Senior Management’s Role

It is very rare for a board to be so well aligned with both company and market to drive everything required from a change management program from the top down. Many board members are not digital natives, and are rarely heavy users of digital media in the same way that younger employees may. Thus while they would like to initiate top down changes, they do not have the required knowledge to do so, and thus rely on middle management to inform them.

Middle Managers as Real Change Agents

While staff at the bottom of the company may act as a catalyst of change, middle management must act as change agent, through making sense of reactionary groundswells and managing the expectations of their seniors. However, without proper Senior Management support, it’s likely that such people would get burnt out – especially when encountering blockers within a business. Thus Senior Managers should act as enablers and facilitators – offering support to middle management through things like budgets, but also through removing blockages when they occur.

So does digital change really come from the bottom up as Jake Sorofman says? I’m not convinced. It may have bubbled from the bottom up, but the middle of many businesses has given it its true shape.

You can read more on how to create a Digital Transformation programme in the Smart Insights guide to Digital Transformation.

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The Content Distribution Matrix [#infographic] Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:00:06 +0000 Introducing a new tool to help marketers review and improve the best options for promoting content

If you’re a regular reader of Smart Insights, it’s likely you’ve seen, or even better, used our Content Marketing Matrix developed with First10. It has proved to be a popular infographic since it’s not just a nice visual of some interesting ‘facts and figures’ about marketing, rather it can actually be applied to get better results since it helps businesses brainstorm the best types of content to create as part of their content marketing strategy.

We also feature the matrix and other tools in our recent free content planning template – we worked on in collaboration with HubSpot.

What is the Content Distribution Matrix?

This infographic is aimed at helping  marketers to review the effectiveness of different types of Paid, Owned and Earned media to promote or distribute their content in generating site visits, leads or sale compared to the level of investment in applying the media measured as paid media costs or the costs of marketing team members.


Note that the types of media plotted here are for one example business, so these will vary by company type and sector.

How to Use the Content Distribution Matrix

We hope that the example is more or less self-explanatory based on the labelling of the axes. We recommend you run a content review and planning session using this 3 step  approach which gives more details:

Step 1. Current use of media for content distribution

Start by marking up the current or past use of different paid-owned-earned media options for your business. Plot each media type on the horizontal axis based on its importance in the number of leads or sales you can attribute to it from a low-level of effectiveness on the left to the highest volume on the right. Next consider cost effectiveness on the vertical axis based on the time or money spent on promotion from lowest cost (or better overall return-on-investment) at the bottom to highest at the top.

To take a couple of examples, in this case, long-tail SEO, shown in the bottom right quadrant, is one of the most effective techniques since it produces a high volume of leads or sales at relatively low levels of investment. Compare this to paid distribution options shown in the top left quadrant, such as LinkedIn Promoted posts which have a relatively low-level of volume, but highest costs/poorest ROI).

Colour-coding can help distinguish the techniques you use.

Of course, using the matrix requires businesses to be already set up to measure content marketing effectiveness as explained in our guide to calculating content marketing ROI and the 7 Steps guide to Google Analytics for marketers.

Step 2. Review promotion gap against competitor or sector use of content distribution techniques

This step is easier to explain, but harder to mark up in practice. Here you review the full range of paid-owned and earned media options available to you, in particular. those you aren’t using now. You have to assess what you think they could contribute in advance of a test to prove or disprove your hypothesis.

In this step you can also consider how other businesses are using content distribution in your sector. Since you wont have access to their analytics, this can only be based on an assessment of the types of techniques you see them using and any results you hear them reporting.

Step 3. Select and prioritise new methods of content promotion

Finally, you can discuss which options could be worth trialling in future tests, based on your discussion. There will likely be several new options, so it’s a case of reviewing and setting up a schedule of what to trial and test . An additional use of this visual will be to consider new content partners who can be compared in a similar way.

Why create the Content Distribution Matrix?

Since we devised the content marketing matrix a couple of years ago, I have used it many times as part of breakout activities within in-company workshops to help discussions of how content marketing can be improved. It tends to work really well since everyone just ‘get’s it’ and can swiftly move on to thinking about new ideas for content assets.

At the same time, I felt it needed a follow-on activity to help businesses do a similar type of gap analysis of how they’re promoting their content, or as many content marketing gurus call it, ‘content marketing distribution’. Content marketing distribution is aimed at getting the most from your investment in content assets by using different forms of paid, earned and owned media to enable you to reach your target audiences (see our Paid vs Owned vs Earned definition).

The Content Distribution Matrix was inspired by a well established method of reviewing different digital media based on plotting the effectiveness of a media channel against the resource or media investment required. For example, Marketing Sherpa used a similar visual plotting the effectiveness of social media for content sharing (see excerpt for example chart).

You will see from our example, that there are many paid media social media advertising options now available, so this matrix can be used a reminder of what to test and if it’s not effective, then you can move on to test new techniques as they become available.

As with all of our infographics, we look to update them based on the feedback we get, so do let us know if there is anything that needs more explanation, or ideas you have for improving the Content Distribution Matrix. Thanks!

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9 powerful blogger outreach tools Mon, 19 Jan 2015 10:00:00 +0000 What are the best online services to fuel your blogger outreach?

You want more visibility for your business. But, how do you take your business from where it is now to being in a position where you have the blogosphere buzzing with mentions of your brand? The answer is blogger outreach. This involves tapping into the huge influence that bloggers have and using it to get more eyeballs on your content and to grow your business faster.

Sure you could go ahead and contact any relevant blog that you come across but that won’t get you to where you want to be. By targeting the most influential and relevant blogs you will gain access to huge groups of people who are completely in line with your target audience.

In this post I’m going to talk you through a number of tools that can help you not only find the right bloggers/blogs to contact but also manage your entire outreach campaign. Helping you to scale your efforts, become more efficient and get better results.

Tools to research your outreach campaign

The first step of any blogger outreach campaign is to identify which blogs/bloggers you want to target. It’s not enough to rely on outdated SEO metrics like PageRank. Even Page Authority or Domain Authority won’t be much help here.

You need to consider how influential these blogs/bloggers are – when you identify those with significant influence you will get much better results.

1. ClearVoice


ClearVoice is a fantastic tool, currently in beta so it has some rough edges but the data it provides is extremely helpful.

You can use it to find influential authors by searching for specific authors, sites or topics.

ClearVoice will assign a score to each author based on specific criteria including how many people are sharing the authors content, how many sites they have contributed to, how often they publish new content and more.

There are a number of effective ways to use this; firstly you can easily identify influential authors on a single website by searching for the domain.

Secondly, once you’ve worked in a particular vertical for long enough you will get an idea of who is actively contributing to other blogs. Search their name to find out what other sites they contribute and you’ll quickly get a high quality list of sites to target for your campaign.


  • Search by author, topic or site
  • Influencer scoring metric unique to ClearVoice
  • Get helpful authorship stats showing likes, shares, comments, posts published, sites contributed to and more

Claim your own author profile, add your content and monitor your results

2. BuzzSumo


BuzzSumo is fast becoming one of my favourite research tools.

You can use it to find top performing content and influencers by searching for specific topics, domains or other search terms.

BuzzSumo recently rolled out a pro account with content alerts and content analysis reports making a very helpful content marketing tool.

There are a few ways to use this but I recommend running a search for a topic or domain to find popular (and relevant content) then find out which influencers shared that content. This will give you the opportunity to identify hyper relevant influencers.


  • Filter users by type (e.g. bloggers, journalists, influencers and brands)
  • Filter users by location
  • Find top performing content arranged by the number of social shares
  • Filter top performing content by content type and date
  • Export reports to CSV files

3. Traackr


Traackr is an enterprise level influencer research tool that makes it easy to prioritize your outreach efforts.

I particularly like how the platform gives you full profiles of each influencer, including all of their social networks and blogs along with helpful contact information.

Each influencer is scored on their reach, resonance and relevance making for a very effective influencer identification tool.


  • Quickly discover relevant niche influencers
  • Geo-targeting and multi-lingual filtering options
  • Import your existing contacts
  • Track influencers content and conversations
  • Network analysis functionality shows you who is connected to key influencers

4, Little Bird


Little Bird is another powerful influencer identification platform which aims to help you filter through the noise and cut through to the real influencers that fit with your target audience.

The platform operates by identifying ‘topic insiders’ across various social networks via peer validation. Social networks include; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and Slideshare.

I particularly like Little Bird’s network visualization feature which enables you to find rich niche communities – it’s all colour coded to make each community easy to spot.


  • Easily find influential blogs within your industry
  • Easily find connections between other influencers
  • Find helpful content your audience will love
  • See where influencers are located on a map
  • API integration
  • Social network visualizations help you uncover relevant communities
  • Strategy, training and ongoing support for enterprise customers

Manage outreach campaigns more effectively

Before you dive into contacting blogs/bloggers is worth considering several things.

  • Firstly, which medium should you be using to initiate contact? In most circumstances it helps to build up a relationship via social media before sending the first email.
  • Secondly, consider how you are going to approach bloggers. For example, expecting bloggers to give up their time to help you without knowing you are and without getting anything in return won’t help. Think about how you can help bloggers first, before you ask for anything else in return.

Moving on to the tools in this section; the tools below will help streamline your outreach campaigns.

Some tools will help you purely with the communication element of your campaign whereas others are fully fledged outreach platforms that will help you with the research, management and monitoring of your campaign.

5. Follow Up Then


When you start dealing with more and more contacts, remembering who you need to follow up with and when you need to follow up with them can get time consuming.

Follow Up Then provides a straight forward email reminder system to make sure you never forget. Ultimately helping you be more productive with your emails.

At a basic level, all you need to do in order to set a reminder would be to BCC a Follow Up Then email address.

So for example, if you wanted a reminder in 3 days you would BCC the email address and you would then get a reminder in 3 days’ time.

You could also select a regular reminder by using the following; – there are a number of other options available too.


  • Send emails to schedule reminders
  • BCC emails will remind you without letting the recipient know
  • CC emails to remind yourself and the recipient
  • Task based reminders
  • Support for SMS reminders (premium plans only)

6. Yesware


While Yesware is more geared towards being a sales tool, it works very well for outreach.

The email tracking feature is particularly helpful, it allows you to see who is opening your emails, clicking on links, opening attachments and more.

You also have helpful time saving tools such as the option to send emails automatically at a later date and reminders to follow up on particular emails.

Yesware integrates easily with Gmail and Outlook.


  • Email tracking functionality
  • Click-to-call support
  • Integrates easily with Salesforce
  • Tracking and analytics
  • Support for Gmail and Outlook
  • iPhone app available

7. Nimble


Nimble is a CRM (customer relationship management) tool with a difference.

Instead of simply managing a database of contacts that has limited scope, Nimble combines your emails, social messages, and social messages from your contacts, activities and your contacts in order to display them all in one place.


  • Built in task management
  • Manage deals and your sales pipeline
  • See who in your team is connected to your contacts
  • See when you last contacted someone (and when they were last contacted by a member of your team)
  • Identify key contacts based on relevance
  • Various browser add-ons (Chrome, Safari, Firefox)
  • Integrates with Gmail and Outlook
  • Mobile apps available from the App Store and Google Play

8. Inkybee


I’ve been a fan of Inkybee since it was in beta.

You can use Inkybee to manage every step of an outreach campaign, right from the sourcing of influential blogs to contact right through to measuring and reporting on campaign progress.

Inkybee also has a handy Twitter feature which allows you to find influential blogs among your Twitter followers.

I particularly like the data that Inkybee pulls in with each blog it finds. Data includes; location, social profiles, engagement, activity, inbound links, social following and SEO metrics from MozScape.


  • Compile and filter lists of target blogs
  • Manually add blogs and pull in additional data
  • Record additional contact info, statuses, notes and relationship information for each blog
  • Automatically discover new blogs in your industry
  • Monitor, measure and report on your campaign progress
  • Identify influential blogs using Twitter

9, BuzzStream


BuzzStream excels when it comes to the sending of emails and management of campaigns.

I especially like how you’re able to integrate with various email platforms, import your target list of blog’s (or use the platform to create the list) and cycle through them emailing as you go.

You can add templates with various merge tags but I find the personal approach works best. Similar to with Yesware, you can select your email to be sent automatically at a pre-determined date in the future.

You can then easily record your progress so you always know where you are at. While BuzzStream doesn’t have its own inbox, you do have to respond to emails outside of the platform. You will get email notification when you have replies though.


  • Send emails from within the platform
  • Email template functionality that tracks open rates
  • Helpful send later function for emails
  • Email notifications
  • Buzzmarker extension allows for extra functionality as you browse the web
  • Integrates with Open Site Explorer, BuzzSumo, Followerwonk and more
  • Built in CRM
  • Built in workflow that makes outreach easy
  • Task management functionality built in
  • Easily manage your team and keep on top of where everyone is at

Over to you
There are new tools being developed all the time and there are plenty more helpful tools that I could have included, but we have to draw the line somewhere. Which tools are you using in your outreach process? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Image/Copyright Source: BloggingWizard
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