Marketing Tools I Love

marketing-tools

As a marketer, we have lots of great tools available. I’ve tried out many. These are some that I love and why. I’m not affiliated with any of these brands, and my recommendations are simply my humble opinion.

Hootsuite

There are lots of social media management platforms available. I’ve been using Hootsuite for about a year, and I think it’s pretty nifty. I use it both on desktop and the app. The only negative is that on the app, I can’t schedule for a LinkedIn company page. I also use the Hootlet extension so that I can post directly from the article I’m reading. I set up most of my social media on Sunday for the following week. Because I manage multiple accounts, it keeps me organized. You can create multiple streams and “listen” for keywords. It’s also easy to manage engagement, as I can reply, retweet, share or like directly from the app.

Canva

I’m so obsessed with this platform. I am officially a raving fan, and I’ve recommended it to about 10 people thus far. Canva helps you make your imagery and designs look professional. I am NOT a designer so I need help. Canva has amazing templates, most of which are free. And it already has the sizes you need for a variety of posts: social media, blogs, etc. You can create eBooks, presentations and pretty much anything marketing related. I also just used a template to update my resume. They even offer “magic” resizing so that if you create a design in one template, it will automatically resize it. The basics are free, but I do have a paid subscription. It’s probably the best $13 I spend a month.

Instapage

Full disclosure, I’m neither a designer nor a coder. But I wanted to build easy landing pages without waiting for a designer or a coder. I tried out several landing page creators. I’ve loved Unbounce for a long time; that produce some great content. It just wasn’t a good fit for me based on skill set and price. Instapage is so easy to use! Drag and drop basically. They provide a lot of templates, or you can make your own. You can also add your brand font and colors easily. For a very reasonable price, you can create unlimited pages. Super easy to navigate, and it integrates with many website platforms like WordPress.

Pixabay

I’m no fan of stock imagery. It ruins so many cool websites. I try to use imagery that aligns with the idea but looks natural. Pixabay is my absolute favorite free photo site. They have a nice collection of photos and illustrations. I’ve been using it for years. I rarely ever have to go to a second source because Pixabay almost always has what I want. Pixabay photos are on my blog and portfolio website. Even though it is free, you can donate money to them. I use them a lot so I have no problem with helping them out.

Hubspot

Last but not least, I absolutely believe Hubspot is the best marketing automation software. I’ve been in love with their message for years and finally got the opportunity to use it for a project I worked on for several months. It’s so intuitive, and it integrates everything. You can post blogs, design landing pages, manage SEO and more. Plus, they offer FREE education. I’ve taken the software class and the certifications classes in inbound, email and content marketing. Their webinars are pretty insightful as well. Marketo and Pardot, to me, aren’t even in the same neighborhood, and both of those platforms don’t offer any training unless you are a paying customer. It also costs quite a bit to even take their certification tests.

If you need tools to work on marketing yourself or a brand, check out my recommendations. I’d also love to hear about the marketing tools you love.

Happy Marketing!

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How I Landed My Dream Career

How I Landed My Dream Career

 

First, I just want to say this isn’t an article about how everything happens for a reason, and if you just focus on success, it’ll happen. This is a story about not settling. This is a story about how a job and a career are different things.

A year ago, I felt like my career was going nowhere. I left a job I loved because I just couldn’t keep going on a path that was all dead ends. So I took a job that I thought would move me into the right lane, and the pay was great. I soon learned that the job wasn’t what I expected. So I moved on after a few months to a position that paid more but still wasn’t what I wanted to do. But it gave me the time I needed to focus on where I wanted my career to go.

However, this was just a job, and I was a contractor not an employee. As a contractor, it was hard to feel like I was a part of something, which made feel disconnected to the work. I worked with some very smart and competent people. But no one seemed to have a plan for my role. It was like they went on a hiring spree, I showed up, and they weren’t sure what to do with me. I was used to just being thrown in, but when you work for a large company, it’s basically impossible to create work. But I tried. And really the clichés about large companies are mostly true: lots of red tape, corporate speak is rampant, and most of the time, new ideas aren’t appreciated. These were not bad experiences. I did learn things. I learned a lot about what I didn’t want for my career and that having at least some leeway to be creative is essential. And that I really like working and collaborating with others. The in person meeting is hard to come by in global companies. Technology allows for alternatives, but in my opinion, there’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye and giving them your attention.

I also learned that in a large company, your role is just one small cog and that was hard for me to swallow as my experience has been one where I’ve had to wear a lot of hats. I was able to connect what I was doing to the bigger picture; I just had little opportunity to influence the strategy. It became easier to just do what I was told. And that’s not me. I need to be challenged and engaged. Otherwise, I just feel like I’m simply showing up.

But during the year of contacting, I enjoyed flexibility that allowed me to find exactly what I wanted and focus on continuing to improve my skills and connections. This time allowed me to connect with some amazing folks and do some really cool things. So even if my day job was blah; I had work that was creative and challenging. I also took this time to learn new skills. I can now create landing pages without the help of a developer! Life doesn’t really hand out opportunities just for showing up. Attitude about your situation is what you can have control over, not much else.

So while I could worry less about financials, I had plenty of time to find the right fit. I had a lot of bad interviews. Not that the people were bad; it’s just I kind of immediately knew it wasn’t for me. I never turn down interviews even if I was already on the fence. You never know who you might meet or what it might teach you. I, at one point, thought I had found a great opportunity but because of situations beyond my control, the company made the choice not to fill the position. I did meet a great guy who 100 percent believed in me. We were completely on the same page so it turned into an opportunity, just a different kind.

The worst interview had to be the one that made me literally sick. It was so hot in the room, and I was in there for over an hour with no water. I’m not saying it was a literal toxic environment, but I decided my body was trying to tell me something.

So it was months of bad interviews or jobs that seemed like a good fit but were under my salary requirements. I could have just gotten comfortable in my day job routine. But I knew I wasn’t fulfilled so I kept putting myself out there.

Then something amazing happened. I applied for a job on LinkedIn and had a phone interview with my now boss. I immediately knew I wanted to work for him. Then in my in person interview it got even better. I knew I had found my people and my place.

I’m just finishing my first week, and thus far it’s as advertised. The people are fun and friendly. I’ve already received so much praise and recognition for my work and ideas. That’s pretty amazing! And I’m thankful everyday that I get paid well to do what I love, write and marketing!

My advice to anyone unhappy in their career is that only you can change it. Your boss isn’t suddenly going to start appreciating you. The work won’t become interesting and challenging if you wish hard enough. But don’t settle. You deserve to be treated well and paid fairly. I bring up pay because it’s important to ask for what you need and not back down. I know what I’m worth, and in the end so did they.

If the offers don’t come then keep learning and growing. Top talent is a bit of a unicorn these days. If you know how great you are, make sure employers do, too. Tell your story because we all have one. I’m feeling really blessed right now, and right now, I feel that my career story has just launched into an exciting new chapter.

Hey law firms, here’s an introduction to inbound marketing

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I’m what you’d call an inbound marketing evangelist. I have no doubt that using inbound strategies is the key to quality leads and substantial growth. Unfortunately, not every industry has embraced it and prefer to stay stuck in traditional marketing. One industry that seems to be lagging behind but has so much opportunity is the legal field.

Attorneys love advertising. I know this because they are constantly on my TV or smiling at me from the vinyl wrap of a bus or everyone’s favorite on the back of a phone book (just so you know, I don’t have a phone book, but I think they still exist). When I see the ads on TV or read their billboard, I am amazed at how little they have progressed. From their shiny hair to their 90s suits, it’s bad. But maybe it works for them; although, I am not sure exactly how they derive ROI from ad spend, and I would assume that ad spend is substantial.

An introduction to inbound

So, attorneys or marketers who work for law firms, I’d like to introduce you to inbound marketing. When people need an attorney, it’s usually not for a good reason. And most people may already have a negative feeling about lawyers (sorry, you just aren’t likable). So how do you get a prospective client to like and trust you? By providing users content to answer their questions. A content plan that targets the specific reasons someone may need an attorney could be much more valuable than your billboard. Here’s why. When we need something now, we ask Google. We, for the most part, trust the results that Google provides. So if I’m asking Google what I need to know about some legal predicament, like personal injury, negligence or family matters, that’s probably what I’m going to ask Google. If you have relevant content that answers the question and is optimized correctly, there’s a good shot you’ll be in the results.

Not all law firms have resisted the inbound revolution. Hubspot shared a case study of a law firm that cut paid advertising and increased its leads by 186 percent by adopting inbound strategies. The firm moved away from traditional formats and started creating a content marketing strategy that generated interest and in turn new clients.

Some are dipping their toes into the inbound pool

I did a little research myself looking at some law firms in Charlotte, N.C. I did some simple searches wherein I was seeking answers to legal problems. This is what I found:

  • For family law, there were a lot of paid ads on Google, none of which went to a dedicated landing page that would have been considered an Awareness stage offer, like an eBook.
  • Some of the family law practices I looked at did have blogs, but the publication was sporadic, and there didn’t seem to be a real content marketing plan; the topics were too general and didn’t really answer my questions.
  • For personal injury, there were plenty of paid ads, none of which would be considered an optimized landing page. The designs were dated, and nothing about the testimonials or content felt authentic.
  • The personal injury firms also had blogs, but the tone was off in that it didn’t feel human or compassionate, which is what prospective clients are seeking. It makes me question if they understand their buyer personas.

Inbound can work for you

Whether you are a boutique or international law firm, inbound marketing can work for you. It starts with relevant content targeted to your ideal client. The content can’t be about how amazing your firm is; rather it needs to focus on answering questions or providing tips to help those in need of legal advice. Of course, the blogs would never be considered legal advice (as I’m sure all attorneys may worry about this if producing content), but they must sound human. The general public doesn’t understand legalese, and they will be immediately turned off by it.

Here are three ways to introduce inbound into your firm:

  1. Start a blog; if you already have one then create a strategy for it to include topics, frequency, tone and promotion.
  2. Create conversion-centric landing pages to use in paid ads and organic search. Don’t distract your prospect with 10 different actions. Offer them a piece of content that is relevant then follow up with a friendly email, but don’t push.
  3. Get active on social media. Post your content here. Engage with thought leaders, prospects and clients. Depending on your specialty, you may find success on a number of different platforms. Let the platform dictate the content. For example, on LinkedIn write posts that may help businesses who need legal services; on FaceBook, post an infographic on data related to divorces, as this may be the platform that users would be looking for individual legal advice.

I’d love to hear from law firms that have been successful with inbound and content marketing. Or if you think your firm is ready to adopt inbound and need some help, let’s connect and chat.

Why do we have to make things so hard?

 

make-things-so-hard

In life, whether professionally or personally, we often make things much harder than they have to be. Many people seem to reject simplicity and believe complexity is the only way, especially in marketing. Why? I think there are several reasons why this is happening in organizations across the U.S. Here are some observations of why people can’t seem to understand that simplicity is not inferior to complexity:

Confusing simplification with “dumbing it down”

I have run into this wall many times when working with technology and software companies. They believe that the complexity of their product or service is validation of its greatness. WRONG! What these types of companies fail to remove from the marketing and tone is this bias that they are experts; their customers are not. If you use words that require a dictionary then your message is not on point. Simplifying your message to focus on value and benefits to your end user will get them to listen. If they want to know more about the specifications and technology, they will ask once they are closer to making a buying decision. Strive to be simple and human in your message; not formal and condescending. This is in NO WAY “dumbing it down.” It’s about creating a message that resonates with your audience.

Creating complexity to ensure purpose

Are you the only company offering your service or product? Probably not. Maybe you have a different angle or approach, but there are always others that can offer what you offer. So to ensure your purpose, you market or write about your product’s complexity as a differentiator. I don’t think this is a good move. Competing on complexity isn’t really a winning strategy. There has to be another way to substantiate purpose; I think it’s in the “why.” The “why” is just that: why you do what you do (not to make profit, although of course that’s part of it). But defining the “why” is much more powerful to users than how complicated your product is.

Internal communication is absent or strained

Marketing is not an island unto itself. As a marketing professional, I’ve worked closely with sales, operations, R&D, ownership and almost every other department. Marketing’s job is to create messaging and campaigns to spread that message to attract leads. But marketing often has to work with subject matter experts (SMEs) or other groups to capture what is happening in the industry and what users are saying. I’ve had both great and strained relationships with these groups. And in some organizations, I’ve seen ZERO communication or collaboration. If as an SME or technical expert, you can’t explain to me why someone would need or want your product then I’m going to have a hard time translating this. It’s been such a struggle in many organizations that I have just become the SME myself. SMEs or others may not know how to effectively communicate. But marketers can teach them. By asking the right questions and pushing back, you can get some great nuggets of information. My final advice on this topic is that all stakeholders should meet regularly, learn to trust each other and of course communicate!

Goals are unclear

I have an excellent example to illustrate this point. My dog, Fawn, does not like to put her harness on. She has to wear a harness because she’s a puller. She likes to think it’s a game, but I’ve assured her it’s not. Usually trickery is involved to get her into the harness, but the reward is she gets to go outside for a walk and more than likely will also get a treat. So she completely understands what the harness means, and she does love to go outside. Yet, she always makes it more difficult than it has to be. You may be doing the same thing with your marketing. Your end user understands his or her goals. They have a problem; they need a solution. Their preferred end state is to have something in place that removes the problem. If your marketing isn’t geared to your buyer’s end goal then this is a huge problem. It really is that simple: be the reason somebody’s life or job just got easier. When you don’t align marketing with the buyer’s journey (Awareness, Consideration, Decision) then you miss the mark often. You may be making it to complex for the end user to see how your solution solves their challenge. Look at the pathway from prospect to client, where are the gaps? Is it too hard to do business with your company? If you don’t simplify the process and make it user-friendly, you will lose prospects and clients.

Parting words: simplicity is your friend; complexity is your foe! I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and please share if you found this worthwhile.

Social Media Marketing: Be Strategic, Not Random

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Why do so many brands treat social media like an afterthought? The randomness and complete lack of a strategy is quite frankly, shocking. In other words, it’s better to do nothing than to do it poorly

This is what I imagine might be happening in business across the world. It’s like one day in a panic Bob from sales called Linda in marketing and said start posting stuff on social media. Linda has a FaceBook account and a profile on LinkedIn so she’s basically an expert, right? Then Linda starts haphazardly throwing up posts and links. Ninety days later, social media marketing hasn’t brought them any quality leads, and no one engages with their content. Why didn’t it work? There’s one clear answer: they didn’t have a strategy or goals. Don’t be like Bob and Linda, do this instead:

Set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound) goals. If you don’t have an objective then it’s all for naught.

Create a content marketing plan. Here’s what I start with:

  • One focused topic monthly that is an eBook or Whitepaper
    • Recommend this is an “awareness” stage asset, meaning it should be education and information focused and place consideration on the user as being at the beginning of the buyer’s journey
  • Blogs on each of the points within your main asset
  • Repurpose the content into other formats: infographics, video
  • Create a landing page that offers your asset
  • Determine which platforms you want to post on – focus on three max. You can determine which ones are right for you based on your industry and where your ideal buyers and competitors are.
  • Find similar content by thought leaders in your industry. Quote the article in one of your blogs. Share third party content related to your topic.
  • In addition to the featured topic, place some additional blogs on your calendar that compliment the topic.

Next is execution:

  • Develop the content.
  • Build your landing page.
  • Determine keywords/hashtags you should highlight in your posts.
  • Then schedule your posts using a platform like Hootsuite

You aren’t finished. No need to go on autopilot. If users start engaging with you, show up! Thank people when they share your content. Answer questions. Encourage conversation. Ask questions when you post your content to prompt engagement.

Then it’s time to measure. What was your engagement? What posts were most popular? What posts led to conversions. And you have to look at all the data in context. If you earned 80 new followers in a week, why? If something is working, leverage it. If something failed, tweak it.

Your social media success is dependent more on relevant content than probably any other element. Posting a link to one of your web pages isn’t a strategy. I’m a bit embarrassed for brands that do this. You must add value to someone’s feed; otherwise, you’ll be quickly discarded.

Also, you’ve must cover and manage the details of posting. Does your image post correctly? Is your meta description displaying? Are your graphics professional and eye-catching? Are the pages you are linking to mobile-friendly? Users don’t click on links that don’t display correctly. It also makes your brand look incompetent. That’s the last emotion you want to conjure.

So just to recap, don’t be like Bob and Linda, throwing random content up and hoping something will stick. Start with a strategy, produce engaging content, post it on the platforms where your buyers are and measure!

Is your marketing confident?

marketing-confident

If you want your audience to take your brand seriously, you must market confidently. But confidence doesn’t mean being boastful or using every superlative available. It means that you lead with value, and let your audience know how your solution can revolutionize the way they do something. If your message veers off course, whether that is because you’ve gone from confident to condescending or show uncertainty, then your conversions will suffer.

Here’s an example from my own career. A designer and I created a landing page with the goal of getting users to request a demo of our software. It was a really well designed page that provided an outline of how the software worked, emphasizing ease and convenience. It also relayed the key values the user would experience, including reducing time spent on data entry, cost savings and improving the quality of their current process. It also included a link to an educational white paper, which was a free link (no form completion required).

The call to action included some specific confident language. The close was xyz will change the way you do xyz. Chat with us today to learn how we can improve your process. The close was focused on what the software could do for its users and that the brand was confident in its delivery of an effective product.

The landing page was used in a variety of channels, including an Adwords campaign, social media and email marketing. It was a very successful landing page, pulling in an 8 to 9 percent conversion on Adwords and over 40 percent on email.

Then the president of the company took issue with the confident wording, saying it was too much of a guarantee. He had a hard time understanding that marketing isn’t a legal contract. The language never guaranteed anything or exclaimed that it would change their life! Unfortunately, I had to change the language. The new language didn’t radiate confidence. It was just very bland and ordinary.

Ninety days later, I reviewed the metrics. And not to my surprise, conversions declined, mainly in the Adwords campaign, which of course was real dollars and less returns. I reported the data to my boss. He still would not allow me to change the language back. The landing page continued to have good conversion rates, but it never hit the same numbers as it had. This was the only change made so I had to attribute the decline to the change.

Fear often keeps people from making the best decisions for growth. Marketing, executed with focus and confidence, is the heart of any great growth strategy. If you don’t end with a confident close, users will sense this and lose confidence in your brand.

What I Learned from 2016

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Well, 2016, you sure did not disappoint. It’s been up and down all the way through. And in the end, whether if just by a thread, I’m still here, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

The year started with a break up; I left I job I loved for many reasons yet it was clear I needed to move on. What I hated leaving were mostly the people. These great people made a lasting impression on me. I learned a lot about myself through the eyes of these people and took some lessons from them as well. It’s a pretty amazing thing when you have the pleasure of being around fascinating people that make you want to just be better.

Since then my professional life has been on the rise. I got back to who I am and what I want to do. I relaunched this blog, which has been such a joy for me. To write about life and share my stories makes me happy. And I am motivated even more to keep telling more stories because of the response I’ve received. I’ve also been able to meet and work with many interesting and intelligent people on marketing strategies. My “day job” is a bit of a bore, but I’ve met many exceptional people.

Of course what took precedence most of the year was the remodel. I spent months with no floor, a few weeks with no kitchen and a few moments when I may have considered going to a hotel alone! And then finally, things came together. I won’t congratulate us just yet. We still have one more ceiling to scrape and two bathrooms, which means we’ll have to share a bathroom for a time.  Good luck to us.

While things have been mostly positive and joyful, the world itself has continued to be challenging. It’s nothing new. Conflict arises over the same things over and over – religion, race, power, money and anything that seems “different.” Have we learned nothing from history, have we really devolved? I’m not an expert on the human condition; I am however an observant storyteller. I’ve seen real anger and fear in the faces of many. Yet I’ve also seen beautiful signs of humanity. One afternoon on the way home, I saw a dog with no leash or human. It’s a busy road. He was definitely someone’s pup based on his good condition. I went to pull over and three other cars did as well. A lady jumped out and scooped him up as he was about to walk into the road. I needed to see that, it gave me hope.

I lost a lot of hope in this culture during the election. It showed a lot of the worst in people. I don’t believe that some people are all bad or good. I think people are all shades of gray, light and dark pieces in us all. But l learned something very important the morning after the election. I was on the train, earlier than normal. Two middle aged men were standing behind me on their way to offices in skyscrapers. They were complaining about lack of sleep because “They waited so long to call it.” Then one says to the other, “At least there’s not a woman in the White House.”

I don’t believe the race was lost because of gender. I’ve tried hard to dissect how and why things happened as they did. I get that things certainly aren’t as our founding fathers imagined. But I do know that when they wrote, all men are created equal, they meant white men like themselves. Everyone else has had to keep fighting for that equal. Those words I heard that morning helped me understand that I need to keep trying to be a strong voice and force for women in any way I can regardless of who is in office. I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m going to stay as educated and informed as possible. Someone has to.

The year ended with a simple wedding, joining two people who are more concerned with a dazzling marriage. Marriage, and the wonderful man I now call husband, have taught me so much already. No matter what 2017 has in store, we will weather it together. This is perhaps the best lesson of 2016 – it’s the special moments and time with those we love that matter – everything else is just noise. I’m all for more joy and less noise in 2017. I’ll do my part; hope you will, too.