Inbound Marketing is a transformational approach to attract prospects with valuable content at each stage of the buyer process.

SharpSpring Review

If you’re looking for a marketing automation platform that offers many of the same functionality as the more expensive options, give this SharpSpring review a look!  Sharpspring works primarily with agency partners (like Revenue Architects) and is well suited for mid-sized businesses and high end professional sales teams. As an agency, we work with Sharpspring along with other platforms including Eloqua, Hubspot, Pardot and Marketo. We find SharpSpring is an excellent fit for businesses that value inbound marketing. email marketing  and integrated CRM. Depending on the solution architecture in your organization, including the existing infrastructure of CRM and Office, SharpSpring may be a fit.

This post highlights features found in marketing automation platforms as well as a few lesser-known features found in SharpSpring.  Let’s begin with the most common functions of a marketing automation platform:

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Marketing Automation Selection Criteria

Marketing Team Working on Vendor Selection

Choosing a marketing automation vendor can be challenging. Whether you are jumping into marketing automation for the first time, or are re-evaluating your current system, it can be a difficult and daunting task – especially with how many options are out there these days. Marketing Automation Selection Criteria can help.

The vendor you choose will have an enormous impact on not only your Marketing Department and marketing efforts, but could easily touch other areas as well such as Sales, Customer Service and IT. It is important to consider these other groups when evaluating various vendors, as they may have requirements, obstacles and questions that should be taken into consideration.

To help make the evaluation process a little easier and more effective, here is a recommended process to follow: Read more

7 Attributes of a Lead Scoring Model

Every company will have different ways of measuring a qualified  lead, yet there are a set of factors that you can use to map into a lead scoring model. Many marketing automations solutions like Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot, ShaprSpring and others have built-in lead scoring algorithms and pass this information into a CRM system like Salesforce and SugarCRM.

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These scores can be set up to deliver marketing qualified leads based on certain criteria and scores, helping sales teams accept the leads (Sales Accepted Leads) and focus their energies on the top prospects.

Marketing Automation and CRM are both important. We use Sharpspring technology for our small business retainer services to deliver inbound marketing programs and integrated marketing. Sharpspring includes an integrated CRM as well as API hooks into leading CRMs so it is great for small businesses. The life of the lead is a great way to see the flow of the lead through time and the lead scoring approach helps sales focus immediately on the top inbound leads.

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5 Reasons Why CRM Is Essential in Growing Your Business

It’s all about the customer.  Cultivating and managing your customer relationships is essential for effective marketing campaigns, sales, and repeat business.  But when your contact list becomes unwieldy or you find that several people within your company are reaching out to the same contact, you know you need to get organized.  Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs enable you to respond to your customer base with timely communication, targeted marketing campaigns and strategic follow up.

3-Tips-to-Using-Email-Thread-for-Smooth-CommunicationMy Pet Peeve: Email Threads

How often have you needed to check a customer detail that was in an email thread you received days or weeks ago? You’re hustling to get to a meeting and just can’t find that all important message.

CRMs centralize, store and organize detailed customer data and history logs for easy reference. Help your salespeople improve their effectiveness by sharing information with your team or designating members to manage a particular lead or customer.

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Attributes of Consultative Solution Sales

As we are onboarding some interns with a sales-focused role in a few weeks, we kicked off discussions about what sales and marketing are all about.  For people new to sales, it can be a bit confusing and there remains a range of perceptions about sales and the value of sales – from  “used car salesman” analogies, to the highly professional sales leader.

There are many personal attributes of effective solution sales that are rooted in the DNA of the individual – like empathy, patience, intelligence, listening, questioning, sense of humor, ability to articulate ideas, being likable. This post is focused more on consultative solution sales  – selling a complex, often intangible, product or service to discerning buyers and often, complex organizations. Solution sales requires an approach centered on the client or customer. This sounds obvious, but is often forgotten.

Trends are changing the role of sales.

  • Buyers are using the web, mobile and social to self educate and they are often far more knowledgeable by the time they engage with sales
  • There is a bigger role for marketing now because the web plays a much bigger role in the sales value chain including inbound lead generation
  • Leading companies are aligning the processes of marketing and sales end-to-end recognizing the importance of a collaborative effort

While inbound is increasingly important, there is still a critical role for outbound prospecting and sales. More leads are generated from inbound marketing with valued content and lead gen tools, but sales must qualify and manage these leads while also developing prospects using more traditional outbound strategies.

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3 Ways to Increase Website Conversion

Getting a web visitor to take action is the main objective of any web page. Unfortunately, many businesses see still a website as a brochure and do not take into account the way that web usage has changed and what the real purpose is. They spend all their time on design and not enough on usability and website conversion optimization. Pretty is good but conversion grows a business.

1. Use of Strong Visuals

Images need to have a purpose not just be decoration. Derek Halpen at Social Triggers put together a great article on the effective use of images.

He pointed out the following potential reasons for using images.

-To show a key product or service feature

Derek points out how genius the image of Apple Air in the envelope is. Apple is selling the “thinness” feature and nail it with the image. If you are selling a service, a good graphic can explain your offer.

MacBook Air image example for web conversion

-To direct attention

Images can be used to direct the web visitor’s attention. Images of people looking at or pointing can emphasize a key headline or call-to-action like a sign up form.

-To build trust

Using pictures of real people involved in the business whether they are customers or team members builds trust. Derek points out that people want to deal with real people. Stock images just don’t cut it. Customer testimonials have a lot more credibility if they have an image of the customer with them.

Revenue Architects testimonial example

2. Get the Headline Right

Another key page element is the headline. Copyblogger found 8 out of 10 people read only the headline. The promise of the headline must be compelling enough to turn a browser into a reader and then a sign up. Copyblogger offer a 11 part course to help with this. You won’t get the headline right first time. Optimizely lets you to test different headlines (and images) with no coding required. Testing should be an ongoing process.

3. Be Mobile Friendly

The big movement right now is towards responsive design. This means that a web site will reconfigure to be usable for any device from laptop ti smart phone. Website builders from Virb to Wix and Squarespace now offer responsive solutions. Excellent responsive themes are available for WordPress.

Revenizer mobile responsive web exampleDespite this, only 6% of small business websites are mobile ready according to a recent survey. The same study calculated that the lack of mobile readiness is costing US small businesses $1T each year. Mobile is now 28% of all web traffic. 4 out of 5 of these visitors will leave a site if it is not mobile optimized.

Make sure your emails are mobile optimized also. 70% of users will delete an email if it does display well on their smartphone. 75% of users open emails on smart phones.

 

Looking for help with improving conversion. Contact us at Revenue Architects.

For more ideas, go to Revenizer for 400+ more tips on optimizing digital + real time stats on your marketing performance.

The article summary is below.

Revenizer web conversion tips

What Does SEO look like in 2014?

Of all the digital marketing disciplines, nothing keeps a marketer on their toes quite like Google. Google’s recent algorithm updates gave us the cutely titled Panda and Penguin updates, but don’t let the names fool you – they meant business. Those two penalized poor content and spammy links; cleaning house if you will. I’ll take a look at Google’s new algorithm update called Hummingbird and also look at two other significant SEO trends to carefully consider in your search engine marketing plan for 2014.

Humming to Google’s New Tune?

The truth is, this update appears less overtly dangerous than the previous algorithm updates, as if you have been doing well in search engines with honest content marketing, then you are probably no worse off right now. The challenge though, is keeping up with websites and marketers that are paying attention to Hummingbird’s perceived impact.

Here are 3 key points to consider:

  1. The usefulness of your content;

  2. The speed if your site;

  3. The user experience for mobile devices;

Around this point of providing ‘useful’ content, you blog is a key tool in providing ‘answers’ to searcher’s questions. The old tactic of optimizing your meta data around primary keyword phrases still holds true, but try to avoid keyword obsessing; the search engines are smart enough to understand context in the rest of your content much better these days.

Remember: long tail keyword searches make up 70% of all search engine queries.

For maximum impact, focus on adding new content that explicitly answers user questions, including “how to” blog posts, FAQs, and process tutorials. Your blog can help provide answers to some of these ‘how to’ questions and attract natural links and get picked up by press outlets – who often have a high domain authority – and can direct a high volume of traffic back to your website.

Mobile Device SEO

For mobile optimization these items are critical to ensure a quality mobile user experience, which keeps your bounce rate down – in turn – helping your search rankings on mobile devices.

  • Use Finger Touch Friendly Navigation

  • Disable Pop-up On Mobile

  • Don’t Use Flash Content

  • Scroll-to-Sections Speed up Navigation

  • Keep the number of videos to a page to a minimum

  • Compress images and combine CSS files

  • Use responsive design unless a traditional mobile site suits your content

What Is Structured Data and Schema Markup?

As with the importance of mobile SEO – its best friend is local SEO.

For many small online businesses and social media novices this has proved tricky to navigate while Google+ (which merged with Google Places) has evolved itself. Common mistakes are creating multiple profiles, confusing a personal account with a business one and generally not filling out all the information.

Structured Data and Schema Markup may not sound much fun either, but its function is to create a common vocabulary for describing the data on the web. Using the right expertise to implement, it allows search engines to display important information, such as hours, testimonials, reviews, menus and blog authorship.

You can find the Structured Data Markup Helper here.

You may be more familiar with Google Authorship by sight if not by name. It displays the blog authors Google+ profile picture potentially leading to greater exposure, traffic; especially if the person is an expert.

A combination of your Google+ business page and Schema, means that Google will pull in reviews and other schema information from your business and display it with your business’ Google+ page in search results.ert in the local community or industry.

A one-two punch for improving your local search results and satisfying your mobile device users, both of which will provide the proverbial nectar to Hummingbirds buzzing around your content.

Learn more about how Revenue Architects can take your SEO goals to the next level for 2014.

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Digital Experience Index – Annual Check Up Assessment

Expanding Your Digital Review

Website assessments are nothing new, yet today we need to be taking a comprehensive view that includes a look at your websites, apps, media and social media presence. So, when you do your next check up, instead of thinking “website assessment”, you should be thinking “digital assessment”. Given how rapidly things are changing in digital strategy and systems, you should be conducting a self-assessment at least each year. When we do this for clients, we call it a “DXI” –  Digital Experience Index. The benefits are clear.

Begin with the free diagnostic tool.

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B2B Marketing Statistics – And Some Perspecitve

I received these statistics in a recent email and I thought they were worth sharing further with some comments. I am adding some implications as I see them below each one:

Eye-OpeningA whopping 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel. (Source: MarketingSherpa)

  • Without a defined funnel, it is very difficult to develop a predictable forecasting capability.
  • Defining your funnel – with the buyer in mind – helps you develop the specific content you need to engage buyers at different stages.
  • In most of our B2B work we help define a collaborative qualification model between sales and marketing where sales teams have early insight into marketing leads. By taking a “decision support” approach, the organization is not leaving it up to marketing to determine the relative value of a lead – often the sales rep can help make the judgment supported by the behavioral data.

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Bonefishing at Turneffe Flats: Just Like Marketing!

This post is for fun, but as I write it I can’t help but see parallels between fishing for “bones” and inbound marketing. The equipment, tactics, strategies and execution needed to catch a bonefish are similar to those required for effective marketing.

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