company-niche-market-position

Look, I get it. We all fall into the daily routine and none of us have the time to go through those marketing exercises you learned back in undergrad.

We’re all way too busy for a little Marketing 101 – Especially since sales grew 10% last year, you got promoted, and the boss is on vacation this week. Whatever we’re doing, it’s working. Let’s not poke the sleeping bear, right?

Except everyone needs a little dose of the fundamentals once in a while. Here’s a quick stat for you:


75% of the $1M – $50M businesses we work with have never bothered to define their company’s niche market position.


They can’t answer these simple questions without falling back on easy answers or bland clichés:

• Who do you want your clients to be?

• Who DON’T you want your clients to be?

• Exactly what solutions do you offer?

• How do your provide those solutions?

• Why do you exist?

Sounds pretty simple right? Believe me, most companies don’t bother with this stuff. Most end up cutting corners by using canned responses like “we focus on customer service” or “we provide the best value in the industry”. Garbage. Nobody cares!


Properly defining a company’s niche market position doesn’t involve vague clichés and meaningless crap.


It’s about coming up with helpful, specific, and precise information that customers want to know. A good strategy review session, with a little bit of focus, will set you apart from the pack immediately. I’m sure of it.

This article goes into the 5 areas leading up to creating your company’s positioning statement. Along the way, you’re guaranteed to think about some stuff that you hadn’t considered in a long time…if ever.

 

Let’s Start with Some Basic Rules…

For each of the 5 steps, use the listed questions to help you wrangle up some great ideas in each category. These questions are just guidelines. Nothing is off limits, so let the ideas flow like Donald Trump’s comb-over.

Rule #1: Answer with as much real detail as possible. No copping out with generic language that nobody cares to read.

Rule #2: Dig deep. Be honest with yourself, your company, and areas where you have (or don’t have) opportunity to succeed. Collaborate with your teams.

Rule #3: Set yourself apart. Find areas that make your group unique and really hit them hard. Differentiate like crazy.

Got it? Okay, let’s get started.

1. What’s Your Current State of Differentiation?

Let’s take a look at just how differentiated you are sitting here today. The goal is to separate yourself from the herd. Avoid the idea of being all things to all people and drill down into some targeted cracks that haven’t been explored.

For example, making the first page of Google for the search term “Car Insurance” isn’t going to be easy. Alternatively, you could quickly rise to #1 for the term “Classic Italian Sports Car Insurance in Scottsdale”. Granted, there aren’t as many searches, but you’ll be the top dog and everyone that comes to your site will be interested in what you’re selling. Here’s a link to our SEO Guide ebook if you want more on keyword researchusing long-tail keywordsand achieving search engine rankings.

Consider where you stand today with some questions like:

Who are your biggest competitors?

Who is the market leader?

What makes your company unique?

What are your selling points against each main competitor?

Give me 1 -3 sentences about what you stand for and how you differentiate your company currently.

2. What is Your Purpose? (not as easy as it sounds)

This is the “Why” part of your business model. This area is usually the most important for your customers, but the most neglected by marketers. There’s a whole universe of possible reasons why someone should buy your goods or services…many that aren’t so obvious.

At the end of the day, this is all your prospects ever really care about. Why you?

For example, let’s say you’re a golf pro giving lessons. There are a ton of reasons why people should learn golf…most have nothing to do with golf itself. Most golf pros would assume people take lessons to learn how to hit the ball, cure a slice, or improve their putting. Nope. I’ve surveyed golf students. They take lessons for bigger reasons than that:

• To meet new people
• To impress colleagues or my boss
• For exercise
• To get outside more often
• To avoid embarrassment at the next charity tournament
• To set an example for my kids
• Because it’s FUN!

golf-leap

Here are some good “Why” questions you should take some time answering:

Besides profits, why does your organization exist?

What would people miss if you weren’t around tomorrow?

Why to you go to work every day and why do clients want to work with you?

What value are you delivering specifically?

What specific problems do you solve?

That last one is the big one. Things beyond the nuts and bolts you sell. What do your customers really care about…what are they searching for? That’s the secret to creating content that is music to their ears.

3. Who are Your Best (and Worst) Clients?

This is the “Who” part  of the program. Defining who you want as customers is the starting point for marketing altogether. Maybe your model has evolved over time and your target market has shifted a bit. Ours has, many times.

If you haven’t already, check out our template for developing your buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional representations of the people you are selling to – right down to their age, location and movies they like. Not really, but the more detail the better if you’re trying to create content they’ll fall in love with.

Equally as important is to create negative buyer personas. Figure out who you DON’T want as your customers so that you can cast them aside sooner in the process. Save your time for the best fit customers – whether that’s got to do with finances, attitude or just working with people you like.

Ask yourself these questions to solve for “Who”:

What audience are you hoping to attract?

What types of clients have been most successful in the past?

What traits do they have in common?

Which industries, categories or market segments do they occupy?

What types of clients are the most fun to work with?

What types of clients do you NOT want to work with?

4. Core Competency

Now it’s time for the “What”. Unfortunately, this is the part where most companies begin (and end) their analysis. Focusing on what YOU do and how great YOU are is not only boring as hell for your prospects, but also incredibly ineffective from a marketing standpoint.

Think about your personal relationships (real ones outside of the internet). Everyone knows a guy (let’s call him Steve) who just likes to talk about himself. You’ve heard all the stories about his glory days playing football or how all the girls loved him in high school. He brags all day long, never asks about you, and it wears you out. Don’t be the online version of Steve.

While it’s important to convey your expertise, do it in a way that doesn’t suck (like Steve). Where possible, have others demonstrate your expertise rather than bragging about it yourself. Case studies and testimonials are great for this.

I’m getting ahead of myself – before you start worrying about delivery, ask yourself some good questions:

What goods or services do you offer and what are you expert in?

What do you do better than your competitors?

Which of your goods and services provide the most value to your clients?

If you could only provide one thing, what would it be?

What would your top clients miss the most if your company went away?

5. Is There a Company Culture?

Culture is all about the set of beliefs you live by at your company. It’s the “How” you operate as a group fundamentally. Depending on your industry and the nature of your clients, this just might be the most important aspect of your company.

For example, there are lots of people who would never buy cosmetics from a company known for conducting animal testing.

What are the philosophies and methods you follow to service your clients?

Do you have a unique way of thinking or any special work processes?

What is the one thing you would never change about your company?

Will you say “NO” to a prospective client based on your values? For what reasons?

What does it take for someone to succeed as an employee at your company?

Finally…Create your Positioning Statement

Using all the brainstorming and notes from the previous 5 steps, now it’s time to summarize what you’re all about. Your positioning statement can serve as your elevator speech, and should serve as a guiding beacon for your marketing and sales decisions.

Fill in the blanks:

We provide (this good/service/value/outcome) for (this type of customer/company/industry/market) by (using this kind of approach) because (why).

Here’s the Web Design Phoenix positioning statement:

“We provide value driven website design for growth oriented companies run by good people – because successful online marketing requires sound strategy and effective communication…and we just don’t like dealing with grumpy people.”

Take our PDF Version with you…

defining-company-market-position
self-evaluation-of-company-marketing-program

Take our free online marketing self-evaluation to figure out what your company is doing well, and also where may be some opportunities. This quick overview often helps uncover some “quick wins” in your marketing plan to help you immediately.

It’ll take you 5 minutes to answer some yes/no questions – a great tool that we typically reserve for our new clients to help uncover strong and weak areas in their online marketing presence.

Checklist for Marketing Best Practices

  1. Company identity and defining your niche market position
  2. Discovering your competition, value proposition, and selling points
  3. SEO strategy and generating website traffic
  4. Social media strategy
  5. Converting strangers into qualified leads
  6. Converting leads into customers
  7. Reporting and learning from results
  8. Marketing challenges and goals for future growth

Maybe you’re attracting a ton of website traffic, but aren’t converting any of those strangers into qualfied leads. Alternatively, maybe some data and analytics tracking would help to inform future design and business decisions.

We haven’t come across a company yet that is doing everything on our checklist, but everyone who goes through this exercise gathers some fresh ideas and perspective. Give it a try.

phoenix web design

phoenix web design

Redesigning your website carries a series of business risks that you’d never allow to take place in any other area of your organization.

• Big Up Front Cost – You’re forced to commit between $15,000 and $75,000 (on average) without knowing exactly what you’re getting and whether it will actually be effective.

• Vague Deliverables – With all the nuance and complexity involved in your organization and your website for that matter, nobody can possibly know every detail from the start.

• Time and Resource Opportunity Costs – Redesigning your website gobbles up a bunch of time and energy. These are resources that are typically being taken away from daily duties.

• Late & Over Budget – As complex as a website project is, there are always unknowns that pop up – adding to the cost and/or time to market (thus delaying returns on investment)

• Subjective Design Decisions – Choices are made based on past experience, what other sites are doing, or what your developer “thinks” will be effective. Nobody knows if this is going to be an ideal solution.

There’s a much better way, I promise.

Fact: The traditional way of developing websites is completely broken

With traditional website design, you don’t know what you’re getting, what you’re going to pay, and whether or not is will work well for you. It’s a huge leap of faith.

Let’s look at the website redesign problem from a different perspective – aiming to avoid every one of the risks I just mentioned.

Let’s find a way to get you up and running really quickly, stay on budget, and know with certainty that the site is performing optimally. Let’s make it a PROCESS rather than a PROJECT. In theory, you shouldn’t ever need to “redesign” your website ever again.

Cost Disclaimer

If an “ongoing” game plan sounds expensive to you, it’s not. Think about taking the dollars you’re looking to spend now on a website, and will then spend again in another 2-3 years on a redesign. Rather than writing big checks years apart, it’s better to amortize those dollars evenly over the time frame into flat monthly installments.

Because your site always stays updated, it WILL produce value for you, and you’ll never redesign from scratch ever again.

We call this process Value Driven Design

Value Driven Design is a brand new way of building and growing your website. As the name implies, the focus is on delivering value continually while minimizing risk to your business.

traditional vs value driven website design

Two Distinct Phases – Launch and Continual Improvement

In the first month or two of work, the goal is to develop a launchpad website with a laser sharp focus on top level, immediate priorities only.

The launchpad website is just the beginning. Once the site goes live, the second phase of continuous improvement begins – repeating cycles of planning, building and learning.

The newly constructed website serves as the core for developing new pages, functionalities and assets of greatest value incrementally. The new site is also a testing ground to gather valuable user data for future decisions.

value driven design process

Three Principles of Running a Good Business

1. Minimize Business Risk – Reduce cash outlay, uncertainty and always explore areas of highest perceived impact on the organization. Get up and running quickly, using the website as a testing ground for hypothesis.

2. Continual Refinement – Use real data to evaluate past and present results, informing decisions on future website development ideas. With ongoing touches, the website will never become obsolete or stop delivering value.

3. Information Sharing – Communicate findings with the entire organization. Allow all marketing, sales and customer service operations to benefit from the metrics gathered through the website.

Next Steps

If all this sounds way too good to be true, trust me it’s not. A logical next step is to chek out our complete ebook: Value Driven Website Design – Manage Risk, Stay Flexible, Be Effective.

You might also want to scope out our website design portfolio for some past work and ideas for your own website project.

value-driven-website-design
value-driven-design

Building websites the old fashioned way means too much up front cost without knowing what you’re getting or whether it will be effective. Projects are often delivered late and well over budget. Sites are neglected, degrading in value after original launch. Design decisions are based on opinions rather than real data…all a big recipe for frustration and poor results. There’s a better web design process out there. 

Your Website Redesign Process has to be Value Driven

This ebook goes into detail about all the risks associated with the website redesign process and exactly how you can shift much of this risk to the other side of the table.

Here’s what we cover: 

  • Why traditional website design process is broken
  • Why you should never have to go through a website redesign ever again
  • Why Value Driven Design is the way to go
  • Outlining all the risks businesses take with traditional website design
  • The two phases of the value driven website design process. 
buyer persona template download

You won’t be able to position your company to meet the needs of your customers without first understanding who they are. This is the first step in defining your company’s market position. How well do you know your target audience and the people that make it up? How well do you know their goals, challenges, and backgrounds? Do you know what they’re most interested in and what pains they have? Who do they answer to and what are their daily life is like? Do you know more personal things like how old they are, where they went to school, where they live and what their family is like?

These questions might sound a bit excessive, but know this…

How well do you know your ideal customers?

Without knowing things about your ideal customers, it’s extremely difficult to create a strategy to attract, convert and sell to the best opposites for your business. You need to understand as much as you can about your target audience and integrate this knowledge into every aspect of your marketing and your business.

This post is all about what buyer personas (or buyer profiles) are, how you can use them to grow your business, and how to create top notch ideal customer profiles. 

What are buyer personas?

Hubspot has a perfect definition of buyer personas:

“Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.”

They help you understand your ideal customers (and prospective ideal customers) better. They make it easier to create content that resonates on a personal level with the specific behaviors, wants and needs of the different types of people you are looking to attract.

Depending on your business, you could have just one buyer persona or several. Some companies have as many as 20 – 30. Businesses use their buyer personas for everything from developing marketing and advertising campaigns to creating new goods and service offerings.

The best buyer profiles are based on real data as well as insights from your team and existing customers. We’ll get into creating buyer personas shortly.

Negative Buyer Personas

Where buyer profiles represent your ideal customers, negative buyer personas represent who you DON’T want as a customer. These are people that are not a good fit for your business and you do not want to target.

Here are some reasons for negative buyer personas:

• Insufficient budget
• Too advanced for your offering
• Students who are only performing research
• People engaging in your content for solicitation purposes
• High likelihood of churning or low total value
• Misaligned expectations

Identifying and understanding these people will help you save time and money in the long run. Don’t waste your time marketing or selling to these people.

How to use buyer personas

Your buyer personas allow you to personalize your marketing content for various segments of your audience. Rather than sending generic information to everyone, you’re able to craft messaging based on what your personas are interested in.

Negative personas allow you to eliminate the “bad apples” from your contact database, leading to reduced customer acquisition costs and cost per lead.

When combined with an analysis of each stage of the buying process (how far along someone is toward purchasing), you’re able to create highly personalized content.

Own Your Niche:
Define your Position, Tell Better Stories,
Compete in Your Space…

defining-company-market-position

How to create buyer personas

Buyer personas are created through a blend of real data and insight. You’ll need to conduct some research, interviews and surveys to gather the info you need from a blend of existing customers, prospects, and others who might align with your ideal customers.


Tip: Begin with one buyer persona, then build up from there.

Don’t bit off more than you can chew. Too many personas means exponentially more personalization and customization with your marketing. Each persona needs to be well differentiated from any other. Start with your core customer and dig really deep into their nature. Once you start analyzing the data of your first persona, you’ll have a clearer understanding when it’s time to create new personas.


Here are some best practices.

Interviews

Talk to your existing customers or prospective customers. Find out how they feel about your product or services, and ask lots of questions about their jobs and lives. What tools do they use and who do they answer to? What are their biggest challenges?

Look for Trends

Check out your own marketing data to learn more about how your leads and customers find you and what content they are consuming. Are they finding your organically or through social media? Have they downloaded certain ebooks or watched a particular tutorial video? Which pages are they spending time on?

Talk to your Team

Visit with the people on the front lines. Your sales team will have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to questions, objections and reactions that they’re hearing the field. They may be able to make generalizations about your different buyer personas that will prove helpful.

Example: Foundation for Creating Great Content

Now it’s time to create your buyer personas.

Buyer Persona Example

Here’s an example of a buyer persona that you can create using our template. Let’s call him “Marketing Manager Mark”

Section 1: “Who”

Here, you’ll fill out some background and demographics for your persona.

buyer persona template filled

Section 2: “What”

This section is about goals and challenges, along with what your business can do to help.

buyer persona template goals

Section 3: “Why”

Here are real quotes from actual customers and prospects, as well as some common objections.

buyer persona template quotes

Section 4: “How”

Finally, marketing messaging that you want to use for this particular buyer persona.

buyer persona templates messaging

Use our template and this example as a guide to creating your own buyer personas. If you need help getting started, we’re glad to share some recommendations.

lead-nurturing

As your company begins generating new leads, it becomes obvious that an effective lead nurturing strategy will be very important. In most cases, only a small percentage of website visitors and new leads are ready to make an immediate purchase, leaving 90% of your hard earned leads up for grabs.

A strong lead nurturing strategy can bring huge impact. Research indicates that marketers see an average increase in sales opportunities of 20% from nurtured to non-nurtured leads (source: Forrester.com).

Companies that excel at nurturing generate an average of 50% more sales at a 34% lower acquisition cost. Despite the upside, less than 1/3 of marketers actively nurture sales leads.

Without question, lead nurturing holds some low hanging fruit.

You’re probably asking yourself one of these questions:

• What do really successful marketers do that is different?

• Which lead nurturing tactics work the best?

• How do I get started nurturing leads and existing customers?

Of course, lead nurturing is just one component of a successful website development and inbound marketingstrategy. If you want to learn more about attracting traffic, converting leads, and closing customers, you can check out this complete resource – The Step by Step Guide to Inbound Marketing.

We’ve rolled up our sleeves and sifted through data to come up with the world’s best lead nurturing tactics for you. Let’s get cracking.

Lead Nurturing Tactics that Work

1. REALLY Targeted Content

Lead nurturing increases sales opportunities by an average of 20%

Research proves that custom content based on the interests, goals and behaviors of your leads greatly improves the results of your marketing strategy. It’s all about delivering the right information to the right people, at precisely the right time.

Think about your own shopping experiences. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new vehicle. You venture over to the dealership and talk to the salesperson about a new compact hybrid car. You’re really concerned about the environment and fuel economy. What if the salesman kept showing you everything – cars, truck, vans and SUVs?

That doesn’t make sense does it? Websites that behave this way are often met with the same sort of reaction. Even knowing this, businesses still struggle to deliver targeted content.

There are few requirements to get it done:

1. You need to develop and understand your unique buyer personas.

2. You need to deploy an assortment of content based on the interests and motivations of these buyer personas.

3. You need a software platform to help you convert, segment and target website visitors as you scale strategies over time.

2. Use Multiple Channels

It used to be that a few automated follow up emails was enough. With open rates typically below 20%, you need lead nurturing tactics that extend beyond just email.

You need a combination of marketing workflow automation, email marketing (it’s still a primary nurturing channel), social media, dynamic content on your website (user specific), and an integrated direct sales program.

There are many tactics at your disposal, all integrated with one another. To execute properly, everyone needs to be aligned and working cohesively.

3. Repeat Touches

Every customer and every industry is different, but research from Aberdeen.com shows that it takes an average of 10 touches to turn a prospect into a closed customer.

Funny thing is that almost half of all marketers include less than 5 touches in their lead nurturing automation. If you fall into this category, you might want to ramp up your nurturing efforts.

The best lead nurturing campaigns deliver the right content that users prospects through the buying process. You’ll address common questions in a helpful way, and cure pains. This isn’t typically accomplished with a single email or social media share. Many small steps are better than a big shove to the bottom of the sales funnel.

Use all the tactics you have available to you – blogging, social media, email, online tools or calculators, or even old school snail mail.

4. Quick Follow Ups

The odds of a new lead becoming a qualified lead are 20 times greater if they are contacted within 5 minutes of converting on your website.

Immediate return calls are hugely beneficial, but most companies still aren’t acting soon enough. A Harvard Business Review inbound marketing survey of over 2,200 companies about online sales leads tells us:

• Average response time is 42 hours

• 37% Responded within 1 hour

• 24% Took longer than 24 hours

• 23% Didn’t respond at all

Automation can help, but a quick phone call or email is the best way to convert online leads into opportunities. In fact, the odds of moving leads down the sales funnel are exponentially higher when contacted immediately after website conversion.

Your follow up call should be well informed to be most effective. You ought to have software that allows you to understand where the lead came from, what their browsing behavior was like, and other information about the person or organization.

5. Personalized Emails

Despite the aforementioned drawbacks, email marketing remains the most effective form of lead nurturing. Data consistently shows that personalized emails produce greatly superior results than blanket email “blasts”.

There are many different ways to personalize your emails. If the email was triggered by a download of website content, then you should be able to craft a message using the prospect’s name, company name, or reference the type of content they are clearly interested in.

Other triggers might be clicks on other emails you have sent or visits to certain pages on your website. When you combine these key triggers with some personalization, open rates and click-through rates skyrocket.

6. Lead Rating

Part of delivering the right content to move prospects down the sales process is all about finding the right person. Spend your time and energy on the prospects that are most likely to close for the highest total value.

Lead rating is a numeric system used to rank prospects based on the estimated value each lead represents to the company. Most marketing automation platforms have functionality that can assign values to certain online behaviors, events, contact information, or social media activity.

Determining which leads should be followed up directly by your sales team versus the ones which should be nurtured further down the funnel is a key to sales success.

Back to our original statistic, 90% of new leads are not ready or willing to make an immediate purchase. Lead rating is the best way to tap into that 10% who are looking to buy.

Quick Review

To review, let’s recap what we’ve determined to be the world’s most effective lead nurturing tactics:

1. Target Specific Content – Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas and create content that addresses their concerns and motivations.

2. Use Multiple Channels – Email isn’t your only option. Use an array of tools to touch your prospects an user them down your sales funnel.

3. Repeat Touches – A couple website visits and an email isn’t enough. Most prospects take 10 touches to become customers.

4. Quick Follow Ups – Odds of closing a sale decrease exponentially as time passes. Try to follow up with a call within 5 minutes of a new lead conversion.

5. Personalized Emails – Use personalization tokens from lead conversion forms or company research to make your messages more relevant to the individual.

6. Lead Rating – Set up a solid lead rating system so that your sales team can spend their limited energies on your most valuable prospects.

Want to learn more about Inbound Marketing?

inbound-marketing
difference-between-seo-and-inbound-marketing
inbound-marketing-calculator

Take Your Pick: Online or for Download

Measuring marketing success can be really challenging. With all the players and moving parts involved with a sale, it’s often really difficult to figure out where things are going.

The mathematics of marketing is actually quite simple.

We use these simple calculations for our clients every week at least, and now we’re turning over the secret sauce to you. It’s actually it’s quite underwhelming when you see it, but some of the best tools are the simplest ones.

We’ve got two separate marketing calculators for you to choose from. Both will help you calculate how many new customers, new leads, and total website traffic you’ll need to generate in order to achieve the sales goals you set.

If you want to bring in a million dollars in revenue every month, great! …but logically it’ll take a certain number of new customers to do this. Working backwards, you’ll need to generate so many new leads on a regular basis to get those customers. Still further, you’ll need to attract an even great number of website visitors (strangers) that you’ll be able to convert into the leads you need.

Using this data, you can find your weaknesses and figure out which areas of your sales funnel needs work. Maybe you need to boost your Search Engine Optimization efforts, or if conversion rates are low, you might want to focus on lead conversion path building. If you’r ramping up and looking to grow, here’s a great article that discusses the outsourced lead generation vs. handling inbound marketing yourself.

The online calculator is a quick and easy way to figure out how many customers, leads, and website visits you’ll need based on the sales goals you set and close rates.

The excel template is slightly more comprehensive, and you’ll have the ability to access any time you want.

Either way, you’ll benefit from knowing what is required from your marketing activities and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. We hope you find these tools helpful.

If you’d like us to review your site and your marketing efforts, we’re glad to offer some suggestions…no strings attached. There are often some low hanging fruit that can serve as quick wins for most companies.

Good luck!

hire a person vs hire an agency

So, you’ve finally come around and figured out that this internet thing is a good way to bring in some business. Maybe you’ve brushed up on some SEO education and have a decent idea how to set up your site and bring a little traffic your way.

Now it’s time to ramp things up a little bit. Your first thought is to hire a 22-year old and show them the ropes. You can put her to work for pretty cheap and handle everything in-house. Sounds like a plan.

We can’t dispute it’s a plan, but is it the best one?

Let’s walk through the logic of hiring in-house vs. going with an agency to take care of your online marketing work.

Let’s Start with What you Need…

You’re in charge of marketing, and that’s a huge job. Success is pretty hard to measure and there’s a lot of pressure on you. Let’s say you’ve got $100k of annual budget to address the problem. Here are the bullet points you’re probably thinking about:

1. Flow of Content – You’ve figured out that Google doesn’t like static websites. You’ll need to find a way to produce cool stuff regularly to keep your site fresh and interesting. Search engines need to love you.

2. Keyword Research – Great content is of no use unless people are actually looking for it. You’ll need to research what keywords are hot with your prospects and which ones aren’t worth any of your time. Keywords need to be reconsidered all the time as your business evolves and new trends emerge.

3. On-Page SEO – You’ll need to make sure your website is technically optimized for those creepy crawly spiders that search engines use to read your content. Things like headers, meta information, urls, keyword densities, alt tags and other cool tricks to help your site get ranked near the top.

…and Some Things you May Have Forgotten

1. What Happens Post SEO – Fast forward the tape to when you’re ranking well and new vistitors are flowing to your website. Now what? What’s their experience like? Where do they take action? Is there any way to know something about them? You need a strategy to help turn these strangers into customers beyond a phone number to call or a “contact us” form. How about generating some real leads?

2. Keeping in Touch with Past Prospects – After days, weeks and months go by, a bunch of people have come to your site and forgotten about you. If they were interested at some point, for one reason or another, they decided to move on and never pull the trigger. You might need some kind of lead nurturing strategy to keep these guys engaged a little bit and stay top of mind.

3. Tapping into Existing Customer Base – What about leveraging your current happy customers? SEO doesn’t do this at all. You ought to consider efforts toward turning your customers into promoters of your brand. More email nurturing is a great way to do this…continually over delivering value to your current customers means they’ll recommend you to their networks.

All the strategies go well beyond SEO. They fall under the Inbound Marketing umbrella.

Here are your two choices…and estimated costs: 

hire a person vs hire an agency

Hiring in-house wins, right?

Not so fast…

We’re not comparing apples to apples just yet. 

…But let’s Think Total Cost

The cost of hiring and retaining an employee is much more than base salary. Here are some things we need to add in to figure out the total cost of a new hire:

Benefits
Health insurance, 401(k) and Paid Time Off account for an additional 35% of base salary, or $22,050.

Overhead
They’ll need some space to work in (rent), furniture, computer, software licenses, snacks and free coffee. That’s an additional 25% of base salary typically, or another $15,750.

Administrative
You’ll have some extra accounting, legal fees, liability insurance and some corporate taxes. Add on another 18%, or $11,340.

Training
Normally, it’s 6 – 9 months of salary to onboard new team members and get them trained up, but let’s call it 3 months: $15,750

updated scoreboard

And we’re still not there…

Turnover

Over 90% of millennials see themselves sticking at the same job less than 3 years.

You’re probably not looking for a 45-year old to fill this role in your company. Finding someone with 5 years of experience means you’re probably thinking of someone in their mid-20’s. This bunch is notorious for really high rates of turnover.

This means you’ll be starting over in just a few years. You’re taking on all the cost and all of the risk.

Productivity

The average worker is producing only 60% of the time.

Figure in all the social media checks, long lunch breaks, water cooler talks, and sicknesses that come around when the surf’s up.

Agencies spread the work around to many different people. Instead of one person working for 40 hours per month, they might have 8 people each putting in 5 specialized hours. Also, typical contracts will lay out specific deliverables rather than a number of hour to work. If the agency staff isn’t productive, it’s their problem.

And here are the biggest caveats of them all…

Aptitudes

An agency’s cumulative skill set is many times what your best employee could ever bring. With a good agency, you’ll have a full entourage of diverse skill sets working on your behalf. You’ve got an SEO Specialist, Creative Director, Graphic Designer, Writers and Editors, Research, Data Analyst, Programmer, and Project Manager to coordinate it all.

Software Licenses

Beyond the people at the agency, you’re effectively tapping into all their software licenses, libraries of shared content and many years of trial and error experience.

Scaling

Forget all the other stuff, we’ve been comparing a single person to an entire team of professionals.

With outsourced online marketing, you can ramp up or tone it down at the drop of a hat. When you figure out that your blog is catching fire, a good agency will not only help you recognize this in the first place, but they’ll suggest redirecting resources from other areas to crank out more posts for you. Little Johnny-New-Hire can only research and write so much.

Beyond that, when it comes time to grow your efforts across all channels, you’ll be able to make adjustments on very short notice with an agency engagement.

On the other side, you’re limiting your risk substantially. Whatever the exit clause is in your agency contract, it’s going to be easier than firing staff and filling in the holes.

Conclusions

I get that comparing these two options on a cost basis can be a challenge. There’s a lot to consider, especially if this is new territory for you.

Here are a couple other things you might consider:

Agencies like ours can hire the best SEO and Inbound Marketing talent before you can. Why? Because they’d rather be here with a wide range of clients, guaranteed work, and unique challenges. They’d rather be a part of a team with clear direction, success formulas, and plenty of flexibility for them to experiment and test things out. Sorry, but there are things we can offer them that non-agencies just cannot.

As you consider the merits of outsourcing online marketing, you’re taking on some level of risk either way. Don’t get too hung up on cost. There’s no comparison between cheap services that don’t work versus killing it with expensive retainers. Of course, always negotiate the best arrangements you can, but I encourage you not to get too hung up on price.

Here’s the Take Away…

• Agencies will cost more per hour
• An employee will do more work per year
• An agencie carries less risk and ability to scale
• There is no substitute for the breadth of competency in a good agency

Good luck.

outsourced-lead-generation

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a business owner, CEO, or Marketing Director trying to decide whether to hire a marketing team of your own or to put things in the hands of an outside agency. It’s a big decision with a lot of unknowns. I’m going to try to make this choice a bit easier for you.

First, I’m going to take a look at inbound marketing and make sure there’s no confusion about what an effective inbound marketing campaign entails. Then, I’ll investigate what I believe are the two biggest factors in your decision: Time and Money. I’ll list some pros and cons of each option, and fire off a few questions that should help frame your thoughts a bit more clearly.

By the end of this article, I’m hoping to arm you with the information you need to make an informed decision about your marketing strategy.

Full disclosure: I am a co-owner of a Hubspot Partner inbound marketing agency called Web Design Phoenix. Although I bring my own set of biases to the table, I’m taking off my company hat for the sake of this article iin an effort to help you arrive at your own conclusions.

What is Inbound Marketing?

In basic terms, inbound marketing is the concept of using helpful online content to attract the right visitors to your website. Once they get there, inbound marketing focuses on converting these visitors into qualified leads, and then turning those leads into happy paying customers. Inbound uses tools like blog articles, videos, ebooks, and social media to address your target audience’s basic questions and show that you’ve got the answers.

While traditional or outbound marketing is interruptive in nature (think television commercial or pop-up ads), inbound marketing doesn’t involve any hard selling at all. In fact, the goal is to provide your audience with resources they are asking for. The goal is to win trust over time…and of course their business in turn.

Inbound marketing content makes use of many different tools to deliver content to your target customer at regular intervals in the buying process, moving them along toward a decision. The delivered content is “smart” (based on behavioral data) and personalized (customized to the interests of the individual).

A typical inbound marketing campaign makes use of the following:

• Blog
• Landing pages
• Calls-to-Action
• Web forms
• Content offers (premium pieces such as ebooks, videos, case studies, etc.)
• Video
• Automated email nurturing
• Social media
• Online advertising

Recent shifts in buying behavior has brought on a huge spike in popularity of inbound marketing. Consumers have the ability to research every alternative, price, and option online – and therefore have all the power. Inbound marketing is an effective way to help your website be found, generate leads online and is now used by businesses in all industries.

What does it take to successfully run an inbound marketing campaign?

Inbound isn’t rocket science. Barriers to entry are low and pretty much anyone can learn some basics online for free. I could set up a Google Analytics account right now, start tracking website visits, and publish some pay-per-click ads.

This doesn’t mean that I know what the heck I’m doing. I’m sure you’ve seen this commercial making the same point for a financial advisory firm.

So what does it take?

Understanding your Audience – Inbound marketing attepts to meet your target customers in the places where they find information online, addressing their specific pain points, and grabbing attention in a personalized way. Marketers need to bring a deep understanding of who your ideal customer is and what they’re interested in, or your website will not bring in the right people. Without details buyer profiles, the visitors who do make it to your site won’t convert into leads, and you’ll have no idea why.

Sound Processes – Inbound marketing involves a lot of moving parts. It involves planning and creating new content, researching keywords, and promoting that content effectively. All this requires sound internal processes and workflows to be most effective. Leaving steps out or shortcutting the system means diminished returns. You’ll need a step-by-step checklist that you can roll through every time.

Tools – Your inbound marketing campaign employs a bunch of online tools to help bring everything together: tools for blogging, search engine optimization, keyword research, social media publishing and monitoring, email marketing tools, analytics tools, and more depending on the nature of your campaigns. A good toolbox will help you save time in delivering, promoting and analyzing your content…and the results you’re getting. how-to-seo

Quality Content – This is the hardest part of any marketing campaign. Quality trumps quantity every time. Good content that your users find helpful and interesting is what is going to attract them to your company in the first place, get them to come back to you, and help to build trust in your capabilities over time. Ideally, your content is so good that users are going to share it on social media or use it to make some decisions related to their questions.

Marketing Experience – It’s really important to have some experience in inbound marketing. Handling all the tools and processes efficiently takes a lot of time to learn. Guiding the planning processes, allocating resources and setting up the necessary tasks for ongoing success can only be done by someone with significant experience in the business.

Now that we’ve laid out some of the basics of inbound marketing, let’s take a look at pros and cons of doing inbound internally vs outsourced lead generation.

The Pros of Handling Inbound Marketing Yourself

• You run the show and you control every aspect of the process. You can control the look, the style, and the tone of every piece of marketing content

• You have oversight in all steps of the process as they’re happening. You’re able to allocate resources as needed and delegate tasks where appropriate.

• Decisions can be made quickly.

• You’l have a deep understanding of inbound marketing because you’ll have built everything from start to finish.

• You’ll be able to make quick adjustments if you see things working or not working in certain areas.

Cons of Handling Inbound Marketing Yourself

• It takes a lot of time to master inbound marketing. There are a lot of moving parts and tools to use. The learning curve is long and will require significant time investment.

• There will be a lot of trial and error, especially early on.

• Turnover risk is high. When your delegated staff leaves, you’ll be starting the training process all over again.

• Total cost can be great when you account for salaries, benefits, equipment, and administrative for new employees.

• You will be pulled away from other areas of your business, or responsibilities you have currently.

• Returns and favorable results may take longer to appear.

Pros of Outsourced Lead Generation and Inbound Marketing

• Full team of experts working on your behalf. Greater breadth of expertise and ability to scale up quickly.

• You should get up and running faster with more specialized people working on your campaigns.

• Your time is freed up for other higher level critical business tasks.

• You are delegating instead of executing the details yourself.

• Scaling up (or down) is much easier. It’s usually a matter of assigning more or less bandwidth.

Cons of Outsourced Lead Generation and Inbound Marketing

• Hiring an agency can carry significant monthly costs.

• Although you have input, you’re putting the creative voice of your company in the hands of an outside party.

• You will  not be able to oversee every detail and action (may be a good thing to some)

• There’s a chance that the relationship doesn’t work out

• The agency may not necessarily be experts in your particular field.

To Summarize

What is inbound marketing? It’s about using great content to attract people to your website, converting them into leads, nurturing them along the buying process and selling them the right thing at the right time.

What does inbound marketing require? It requires a real understanding of who your ideal customers are, what they’re interested in, and what questions they are looking to resolve. There are a ton of tools available to publish, optimize and analyze your content, but it takes time and expertise to master this approach.

What are the Pros and Cons of both options? Doing inbound marketing yourself grants you greater control of the process and allows you to pivot quickly. You’ll need to invest significant time, money and opportunity cost for what is usually a slower ramp up to returns. Time to market is typically much longer because of all the necessary trial and error. Hiring an agency gives you immediate access to a group of experts. Time to returns is reduced and scaling up is easy. You’ll free up more time for you and your time to take on other responsibilities. You’ll have a bit less control of the little things with an agency, and costs can be significant in the short term until returns start rolling in – typically monthly retainers.

Some Questions to Guide your Decision

Try to think about how life will be like at your company under both scenarios…not in terms measured in days or weeks, but think about 6, 12, 24 months out. What will be the most sustainable approach for you to compete in your space ongoing?

Handling internally warrants a few questions:

• How much time will need to be devoted each day or week on inbound marketing tasks? How much time do you have to give?

• What’s your current level of expertise and how much learning is going to be required to get you going?

• Who will be writing your content and what the heck do I write about?

• Who will be designing your web pages and the content that you put together? What about gathering images, infographics or producing high level content offers?

• Do you have an in-house team with skill sets that you can delegate? Are there any pieces of the team that you’ll need to assemble or hire for?

• What are the opportunity costs of pulling staff away from duties to spend time on inbound marketing?

Hiring an agency begs a few different questions:

• How much control are you willing to turn over to an ouside group?

• How willing are you to step back and let others take the lead?

• How much upside benefit is there for being quick to market? For freeing up youself and your team to focus on other tasks?

• How much time will you have for weekly and monthly update calls?

• Are you open to giving and receiving feedback?

Conclusions

Nobody will ever know your company better than you do. You know what your goals are, how your company identifies itself in your unique space, and what resources you have available to you.

I believe that a good solid evaluation of each alternative will give you that gut feeling you need to move confidently in a particular direction. Of course, whatever your choice, the decision doesn’t need to be final.

Inbound marketing can be really fun…especially when you start seeing those website visits, new leads and new customer charts ramping up. I wish you all the best of luck.

Cheers!