Monthly Archives: April 2010
by Cynthia Joyce, Nightly News Web producer, former resident of (and currently on vacation in) New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS — I was just eating a beautiful softshell crab dish at Coquette, one of New Orleans’ many new Post-Katrina top line restaurants, and the waitress said, sadly, “Enjoy it while you can.”
It seems to be the prevailing sentiment around here.
A friend was in tears this morning over what this spill is going to mean. Shrimp is already up 50 cents a pound, and redfish is up $1 lb today.
The oil spill will radically change the economy here– and so soon after things started to feel healed.
I ate my lunch with near-religious reverence. It would have been delicious anyway.
By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
Because we all need a break, there is something worth a few minutes of your time on the New York Times website. If you’re a romantic about flying (despite what flying has become) like I am, then you’ll appreciate this — it’s one of the best uses of social media. These are simply photos of the view from window seats. At best, these photos will take you away — somewhere else — even for just a few minutes. And how can that be bad?
We hope you have a good weekend — please join us tonight and again on Monday.Continue reading
During Tuesday’s website optimization webinar, Mike Volpe and I reviewed four different types of websites that had Website Grader scores ranging from 84 to 18 (three of which went down recently and only a little bit). Should the owners of those websites be concerned about lower Grader scores?
Mike Volpe, HubSpot’s VP of Marketing, said, “People should look at their website’s score not as an absolute number but as a relative score to be used as a benchmark and referenced in much the same way as a quarterly check-up. What should be looked at more closely is the authority your website has on the Internet and the progress you are making on the metrics related to authority.”
Mike continued, “Search engines look at websites through two lenses – Authority and Context. The context is everything on the page of your website including the page title, the keywords, all the content that you create. The authority is a measure of the value of your webpage in terms of the number of links and the quality of those links that link into your webpage. Authority is much more difficult to improve, but it also has a bigger effect. Roughly 75-80% of the reason why most web pages rank highly in search is because of authority (the number of links and the quality of those links). Context alone will only get you so far.”
“For example, a link from CNN.com or NYTimes.com will increase your website’s authority a lot more than a link from your cousin’s blog (unless your cousin is a top blogger). And the more authority your site has, the greater the likelihood that Google and Bing will place it higher in their organic results.”
Want to hear the full commentary on each of following websites? You can listen to the recording here.
URL: www.ahaProcess.com | Grader Score: 84
1. Reduce the number of calls-to-action on the Home Page (currently 10 in the right-hand column alone!) and concentrate on what actions you want the website visitor to take. In this case, it is “Attend a Seminar”.
2. Modify their Meta Description. An optimal length is 150 characters for search engines. Aha! Process’ weighs in at a robust 552 characters. A lot of content (402 characters) going to waste.
3. They enjoy a lot of authority with a Moz Rank of 4 and 671 Inbound Links but we think they have enough content to fully utilize a Twitter account attached to Aha! Process and not an individual (in this case, Ruby Payne).
URL: GoodLifeMedical.com | Grader Score: 55/33
Good Life Medical Equipment recently moved their website from www.goodlifemedical.com (Website Grader score of 55) to www.good-life-medical-equipment.com (WSG score of 33, which has increased to 56 in the past couple of days). The new site has 400+ indexed pages with Google.
1. Start a blog to gain authority in your space.
2. Revise the meta-tags on your product pages to reflect the content. Currently, all pages have the same descriptive information.
3. Work on gaining Inbound Links by working with others in their market, possibly going to the manufacturers of the medical equipment they sell to get links to their new website from distributor or reseller listings. Or, ask to have information from these companies on your blog. Lots of ways to work together.
URL: www.ultimateinsuccess.com | Grader Score: 62
A very recent HubSpot customer, Ultimate in Success was worried about the loss of a few points in their Website Grade. We told the founder that he had a few key things to focus on in the next 30 days to improve his authority.
1. Start a blog. He is working on blog posts and planned to make several additions this week.
2. A Moz rank of 2 and 10 inbound links is not an authoritative position to Google. They have 1000+ indexed pages, which shows the content is valuable. Now, they need to get others to link to the site. A good way to get links is by commenting on other bloggers posts.
3. Create a Twitter account and use it in conjunction with your blog to create visibility, authority, and “buzz”
URL: www.massbayspeakersguild.com| Grader Score: 18
A local company, we wanted to get a handle on this organization. This is a relatively new site that could benefit from some simple tricks.
1. Fix the Home Page title tag by concentrating on the location and what the organization does (Speakers, Mass Bay), not a value proposition (Fast, Easy, No-Cost). Put the important words a meeting planner would search for at the front of the tag, not the end.
Mass Bay Speakers Guild Title Tag on Home Page:
2. Start a blog (starting to see a pattern here?) by utilizing the speakers on your site. Have them write blog posts or repurpose some of their content on the site.
3. Link your “new” blog to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Both social networks are ideal for this type of offer. Meeting planners are going to look for speakers that have a following.
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With over 65 million professionals using their network, LinkedIn doesn’t often get the buzz that Twitter and Facebook commands. However, a new tool introduced today gives LinkedIn members the ability to follow companies.
Similar to a Facebook Fan Page, being a company follower on LinkedIn will get you specific status updates such as recent hires and promotions, new job opportunities and company profile updates. With the initial launch the interaction opportunities are fairly basic, but as the feature matures more opportunities will be released to improve communication between companies and individuals.
As part of a new piece of research, we’re seeing how quickly we can grow our followers on LinkedIn’s new company profile tool (and will share that information with our readers in the next week).
When we started evaluating the new LinkedIn tool it was mid-afternoon, and in the course of just three hours, we gained 128 followers (we have 140 employees). This beats out Salesforce.com with 86 followers and 4000+ employees. Another well-known company, Twitter, has 381 followers and 500+ employees.
How did we do it?
1. We sent an email to all of our employees asking them to follow HubSpot. We also asked our social-savvy team to ask their networks to follow HubSpot on LinkedIn.
2. We sent out a Tweet from our HubSpot account.
3. We posted a Facebook update on our Wall.
4. We posted a Discussion Topic in the Inbound Marketers group on LinkedIn.
Granted, it is late in the day, and not everyone is paying attention to their email or social networks. But, with a little effort, a company can gain an advantage in the Social Marketing wars by leveraging an easy-to-use tool from LinkedIn. Company followers are listed, along with a blurb and LinkedIn profile.
Besides going to a company’s profile page to follow, you can click on the company name in a person’s LinkedIn profile and an option to follow that company will appear.
Many people will think that this new tool is no big deal. But, just think about the opportunity to have customers, prospects, potential employees and other connections following a company, your company.
We hope that LinkedIn will continue to add features so B2B marketers can optimize this business social network even further.
What do you think of the new feature? Are you going to follow companies on LinkedIn?
Photo Credit: Marloes*
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A little while ago, I published a free worksheet which helps marketers devise an inbound marketing strategy to support their revenue generation goals. A bunch of prospects, customers and partners have started using it.
But, it’s too complex for most to grasp. And involves a lot of work to complete. Our new marketing analytics tools makes it easier to get the data needed to run the model, but for non-customers who are new to the whole idea of actually predicting and measuring an ROI from inbound marketing, I realized I needed to simplify it.
Here’s my simpler stab at it…
1. Revenue Goals Determine Sales Goals
2. Sales Goals Determine Lead Goals
3. Lead Goals Determine Traffic Goals
If you want to undersand the math behind it, here’s some suggesstions on how to gather the data and what formulas to use.
Calculate the Number of New Customers Needed in a Month
Every company has monthly or quarterly revenue goals. If you’re a small business owner or startup and you don’t have some, you should set some. If you’re in marketing and you don’t know what the plans are, you should sit down with your CEO, CFO or VP Sales and ask, “How can I better support the monthly revenue targets?”
Either way, the formula is pretty simple: # of new customers per month = monthly revenue goal / average revenue per new customer
Calculate # of Leads Required to Hit New Customer Goal
The only way to calculate this number is to know your website lead to customer conversion rate. If you’re still relying on cold calling, this is hard to do. But, even if you do old-school outbound stuff like cold calling and direct mail (or that crazy effective 1-2-3 direct-mail-cold-call-trade-show-punch), you should have a handle on your ‘appointments set’ to customer close ratio. Just assume that an ‘appointment set’ through direct-mail-cold-calling-trade-shows is like an inbound lead, only colder. Any well run sales organization should have a handle on their appointment set to customer conversion rate. If your organization doesn’t have a handle on it, I’d recommend starting a free trial of salesforce.com.
Formula: Lead Generation Goal = New Customer Goal / Lead to Customer Conversion Rate
Calculate the Traffic You Need to Generate the Number of Leads You Need
Okay. It’s going to get a little harder for you to start calculating this stuff. We need you to estimate your visitor to lead conversion rate. Hopefully, you’re keeping track of the number of leads you’re getting from your website per month. If you are, you should be able to look at your analytics package and figure out the number of visitors you’re getting. If you are pretty sophisticated and have some kind of lead tracking setup or closed loop reporting established, you should be able to get this number very quickly.
If you have no clue what your visitor to lead conversion rate is, you should probably assume that it’s in the 1-3% range. If you do online lead generation right, you might be able to achieve a 5-10% visitor to lead conversion rate.
Here’s the formula: Visitors Needed = Leads Needed / Visitor to Lead Conversion Rate.
Now, the Big Question Becomes: How Do You Get the Traffic?
We’ll save that one for another blog post, but if you want a head start on figuring it out, here’s the Inbound Marketing Playbook.
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By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
Last night we did a short item on the Cub Scouts — about how it’s now possible to earn an award in the category of video games. An article we saw motivated the item — part of the lead sentence of the article was that it “seemingly” contradicted the larger message and mission of the Scouts to “foster physical fitness.”
The problem is: there’s a lot more to the story, as is usually the case. We heard from a few loyalists after the broadcast is over — so tonight we’re going to give the topic a more thorough airing, in the interest of fairness. Lee Cowan will have that story from Los Angeles.
As always, we hope you can join us tonight — and once again, our thoughts and prayers are with the folks on the Gulf Coast.
The following is a guest post from Jeff Bussgang. Jeff is a serial entrepreneur and currently a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, a Boston-area early-stage venture capital firm. Jeff is also the author of the recently released book “Mastering The VC Game”.
One of the hardest things about venture-backed start-ups is achieving alignment. When there is alignment between entrepreneurs and VCs, all collective energies are directed towards the magic of building an amazing, world-beating start-up from scratch. When the entrepreneur and VC are out of alignment, the likelihood of success plummets and self-inflicting wounds, rather than market- or competition-related issues, tend to dominate the agenda.
In researching my book on entrepreneurship and VC, Mastering the VC Game, the issue of alignment came up again and again from both sides of the table. Here are some of the best practices I heard from the entrepreneurs and VCs I interviewed:
1. Be explicit from the start. Naturally, there will be pockets of misalignment – VCs and entrepreneurs answer to different masters and sometimes have different structural objectives. Making explicit these pockets of misalignment and talking them through openly is often even more critical than the particulars of, say, the deal terms in a financing. One useful technique for clarifying the various scenarios of misalignment in financings and M&A outcomes is to maintain a simple spreadsheet with the entrepreneur-VC split laid out under different exit outcomes. This distribution of proceeds in the event of a sale is often called the “waterfall,” evoking an image of sale proceeds cascading like a river to various shareholders. I recommend entrepreneurs be clear at all times and at every financing about what the waterfall calculations look like for each of the preferred and common shareholders.
2. Seek first to understand, then be understood. I borrowed this one from Steven Covey. It’s important that entrepreneurs understand the VC’s perspective in all situation and through what lens they are looking at things. For example, if everything goes well, most of the control-oriented provisions in a term sheet never come into play—it’s all discussion, earnest debate, and aligned decisions. But when things go poorly and there are the inevitable disagreements, the VC is often in the driver’s seat to make major decisions. Only in rare circumstances can the entrepreneur retain full control of major decisions after they take VC financing. Therefore, entrepreneurs need to invest the time and energy to understand how VCs are compensated, motivated and what the particular interpersonal dynamics of their board member are within their partnership. For example, how much carried interest does their VC board member have in their respective partnership compared to the other partners? VCs always want to know how the equity is split amongst founders. Turnabout is fair play.
3. Don’t take it personally. Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus put it very well to me when he said, “I tell entrepreneurs: don’t be a victim. It doesn’t matter whether you like the venture capitalists or don’t like them, really. Structurally, they have areas of conflict and areas of overlap with you. Depending on the way things go, there’s a high likelihood that you’re going to run into conflict with them at some point, whether they’re your friends or not. And what defines great companies and what defines great venture capitalists and great entrepreneurs is not whether or not you run into those conflicts, but it’s how you navigate around them.” The key is to de-personalize this and simply understand what is the job of a venture capitalist and what are their levers. Mark voiced every entrepreneurs fear, “All that we feel as an entrepreneur is, ‘They’re trying to get control of my company. They want to mettle. They want to second-guess me when things go bad and ultimately fire and replace me.’” It’s natural for those issues to come up. So talk about them, as dispassionately as you can.
4. Discuss the exit before you enter. Before you accept a VC’s money, make sure you are on the same page about your financial objectives and what defines success in terms of ultimate outcomes. If you don’t see eye to eye on the exit criteria and framework in advance, don’t bother entering into business together. Some VCs, particularly those with smaller funds, like you to raise less money and operate in a more capital-efficient fashion. Others, particularly those with larger funds, will push you to go for the bigger outcome. The nightmare scenario arises when an entrepreneur may be thrilled with a $100 million exit, but the VC doesn’t feel it’s “good enough” and blocks the transaction to play for a bigger win. The VC is swinging for the fences and has many chances in their portfolio to generate enough returns to ensure success for their fund, while the entrepreneur may feel this is their one shot and being a multimillionaire is good enough. Fred Wilson tells a great story I include in the book about a team of entrepreneurs getting pressure from their spouses to take the $100 million offer and cash out. Hard to argue with your spouse that it’s worth doubling down on your start-up when paying down the mortgage and putting enough money to pay for college is priority #1!
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate – no surprises. In trying to ensure VC-entrepreneur alignment, nothing helps like clear, transparent, high frequency communication. And nothing hurts like a lack of transparency. “No secrets. No surprises,” Dave Balter CEO/founder of BzzAgent explained. “I heard that early as a CEO. If something new is going to come up in a board meeting that’s not good, put the calls out early to the directors. ‘Here’s what’s going on, here’s why. I want you to think about it. Help me.’ So when we get in the board meeting, they don’t say, ‘What are you talking about?’” I had one situation where a CEO revealed to me that his technical co-founder was moving to Spain for personal reasons right in the final stages of a new funding process. He was nervous about telling me, but did it in an honest and open way as soon as he found out. His candor was compelling to me, and his plan for recovery was pragmatic and thoughtful, so we still funded the company.
To be successful partners in business-building, entrepreneurs and VCs have to trust each other to be open about their motivations. In the case of the entrepreneur, they may be trying to protect their position of power at the expense of shareholder value. In the case of the VCs, they may be trying to achieve gains on behalf of their limited partners at the expense of the other company shareholders. If entrepreneurs and VCs suspect that the hidden motivations of the other are dominating their behavior and their decision making, they will lose trust in their advice and counsel. That’s when the soap opera stories begin.
In the end, entrepreneurs need to raise the right amount of capital for their business, under terms they can live with (and can achieve under the circumstances) from VCs with whom they have great chemistry and who they believe will be good business partners for the long, hard journey. It’s difficult enough to build a large, valuable company from scratch. Imagine if you get some key decisions wrong and start off with the wind in your face.
But the right decisions and the right VCs put you in a position with the wind at your back, allowing you to focus on all the tough challenges of building a business and creating value in your start-up.
Learn more about Mastering the VC Game at www.jeffbussgang.com. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @bussgang.
Looking for other startup fanatics? Request access to the OnStartups LinkedIn Group. 130,000+ members and growing daily.
Oh, and by the way, you should follow me on twitter: @dharmesh.
Facebook is dominating Twitter in usage in the United States, but the two social platforms are nearly equal when it comes to awareness. This is just one of many interesting data nuggets that were uncovered in a new survey conducted by Edison Research. The report is the most recent data from a three year tracking study conducted by Edison and Arbitron Internet and Multimedia research.
While the survey can be downloaded in its entirety, we have reviewed the research and selected the top five charts and findings that you need to better understand Twitter usage and apply this information to your business and marketing efforts.
1. Twitter Users Frequently Exchange Information About Products and Services
Marketing Takeaway: Twitter users are actively discussing products and services. Make sure you monitor conversations about your business and provide compelling content for them to discuss.
2. Twitter and Facebook Are Almost Equal in Awareness
Marketing Takeaway: While Facebook is the dominate social platform in terms of usage, Twitter is still growing rapidly and driving consumer awareness.
3. Despite Equal Awareness,Twitter Significantly Lags Behind Facebook in Usage
4. Twitter Users Access the Internet From Multiple Locations
Marketing Takeaway: Marketing on the social web is becoming about multiple screens. Users are engaging on social networks on different types of devices including laptops, smart phones and tablets. It is important to make sure that your online properties are optimized to take advantage of different screens.
5. Twitter Users (Like Most Americans) Are Very Frequent SMS Users
Marketing Takeaway: Today, email marketing can be a powerful driver for marketing results. As SMS use grows, marketers need to plan ways to leverage this type of communications method to become a valuable part of the marketing mix.
Which of these charts is most important to your business?
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Most real estate agents have a social media presence, but are they really giving home buyers and sellers want they crave? Buying or selling a home is an important financial–and emotional– decision. Most people are full of questions when they undertake this endeavor.
They want more than someone who’s just experienced in the industry. They want someone who will protect their interests and help them navigate the complexities of real estate. It is important that the agent they choose is someone they’ll feel confident having by their side throughout the process.
That’s where social media comes in. If applied correctly, it can be a great way to open a dialog, share advice, and begin to forge a relationship.
Here is a handy list of social media dos and don’ts for real estate agents.
- Invite buyers in – Home buyers want to know the good, bad, and ugly of each town they’re considering moving to. Yet most real estate blogs
simply give buyers basic demographic statistics and perhaps some flowery language about the area. Give potential clients a far richer understanding of the markets you serve, letting them know the pros and cons of each area. Be honest and forthcoming with a wealth of information and opinions. Let them know why you chose where you live and they’re more apt to turn to you for advice.
- Be yourself - I’ve heard of many realtors who pay a ghost writer to write their blogs, yet this approach has its shortcomings. The copy simply doesn’t ring true; it fails to give clients a sense of who you really are. Studies show that consumers want to make a personal connection with those they do business with. Let your personality shine through. It’s a great way to open a dialog with a client, before they ever pick up the phone.
- Take advantage of controversy - Some of the most trying days as a real estate agent prove to be great lessons we can share with our clients. Tell readers about common real estate pitfalls to help them have a smoother home buying/selling experience.
- Chat -
Home buyers today expect instant response to questions, day or night. Use a free widget like Meebo to allow home buyers to initiate a chat session with you, right from your blog.
- Respond to comments, good and bad – Respond promptly and courteously to engage readers who post comments on your social media sites. One caveat: Don’t feel compelled to respond to those who post abusive comments. The social media space does lure its share of online bullies. Resist the temptation to get into battle with them, instead help to solve their problem.
- Shout about your home listings - It’s fine to let people know about the homes you’re marketing, but don’t make that the primary topic of your interactions. Think about common questions home buyers and sellers ask you, and turn these into posts. Provide valuable content and you’ll keep people coming back.
- Forget video - It’s tempting to skip this expense, but online video is
an important element of home marketing. If well done, video creates an emotional connection with buyers—and improves search engine optimization. Video is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of Google search results than a text page, according to Forrester Research.
- Assume you’re only connecting with first time buyers - The fastest growing Facebook demographic
is women over 55. At last count, there were already nearly 30 million U.S. users ages 35-54 and more than nine million U.S. users age 55 and older on Facebook. It’s a great place to engage “fans” and learn what they’re looking for from their agent.
- Talk to yourself - Social media is more about listening than about talking. Pay attention to what people are saying about you and your brand. Solicit and gather feedback through informal polls or via free services like TweetBeep or Google Alerts.
- Ignore your existing clients - Invite your previous buyers and sellers to join your social networks. This way, your sites becomes richer communities of shared experiences and objective advice from those who recently completely the home buying/selling journey. These contributors may prove themselves to be your strongest advocates.
How do these ideas translate to industries outside of real estate?
Photo Credit: TheTruthAbout…
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Looking for a pastry shop in Boston? Or how about a late-night sushi cafe in Cambridge? Just whip out Google Maps and it will return a list of related locations with directions, photos, and even reviews of the destination.
With location-based sites like Yelp, Foursquare, Twitter, and others on the rise, Google decided to enter the “location war” with Google Places, a tool that enables business owners to build a directory page in Google Maps. However, Google has taken it up a notch. People can now browse local business in Google Street View and find nearby listings right on the map.
Local Businesses in Google Street View
In a seemingly virtual reality world, users can “walk” down a street and explore nearby locations. Each location has a company name as well as an icon indicating the type of business. If you hover over a local business name, its information (address, phone number, ratings, etc.) will appear in a pop-out box. These are the same business annotations that were viewable zoomed out, but they are now available as you explore around town.
What Should Business Owners Do?
- Set up Google Places page. People are already searching for you online, so make sure they are finding the right information. Set up your business listing on Google Places and include information such as your address, website, phone number, photos, business hours, etc.
- Ramp up your online presence. Create coupons for customers who find you online or offer special deals to draw people in from Google Street View. If you sell products online, a 15% discount will certainly attract users who are just passing by online. Be sure to offer great customer service to receive good ratings on your business listing.
- Analyze your online traffic. Use Google’s data to learn more about your customers’ activity, behavior, and trends. Find out who’s searching for you and where they are coming from, and accordingly adjust your online strategy. Don’t forget to check that your business is in the right place!
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“In God we trust; all others must bring data.”
–W. Edwards Deming, physicist and quality improvement pioneer.
So you know that you need to measure your marketing efforts. The problem many marketers have is figuring out what to measure.
Here are a few tips to help decide:
- Where’s the money going? While it’s reminiscent of Jerry Maguire‘s infamous “Show me the money” quote, your first priority is to show where the money goes. (And, of course, to show what comes back from the money!) If you’re trying to figure out where to start with your analytics, start with your biggest budget item and work your way down.
- What do the “Powers That Be” care about? Does your CMO or CEO have a pet project? Wouldn’t it be awesome to show them a great ROI? Conversely, wouldn’t it be great to show them objectively that it was a waste of time and money? (Note: if you do the latter, don’t actually use those words. Present the data simply and cleanly and let them come to their own conclusions…) Maybe your CEO has a certain budget item under a microscope; measuring that would be very useful.
- Do you NEED the detail? It is easy to get wrapped up in the minutae of data points. Do you really need to see exactly who clicked on exactly which link in your email? Or would a unique click computation for an email blast or lead nurturing campaign be sufficient? When you’re thinking about this, keep in mind that more detail = more human time spent in analysis and more complex tools required to gather and analyze the data.
- What if you screw up? I know that you’re thinking about that last point, “But if I don’t measure EVERYTHING, my CEO will ask me for that one number that I don’t have and I’ll look bad!” You do run that risk, but if you have the numbers that prove the cost of collecting and analyzing a huge amount of data, you can both defend your decision and try to build that time and those tools into your budget going forward. I’ll also warn you that this will happen. You’ll occasionally screw up (being human and all). To try to minimize the damage, see if you can find out what your CEO wants to see and measure before you begin. By setting strict parameters of time and what you’re measuring, you can defend your data.
You may not get all the numbers right on your first attempt. However, through trial and testing you will be able to build a solid foundation of web analytics knowledge and be able to apply it to your business moving forward.
What steps have you taken to measure digital marketing in your business?
Image Courtesy of Gerry Lauzon.
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