I’ve tried hard to implement a bold and experimental culture when it comes to marketing at Mailshake. I don’t see failure as a bad thing; it’s fear of venturing into the unknown that I want to discourage.
Basically, my philosophy is this: Try it. If it doesn’t work, change your approach or do something different. Fail fast.
We tried a lot of different marketing tactics in 2018. Most failed, a few worked well, and a few more were home runs.
That's usually the reality of marketing. It’s also why I decided I needed to branch out and ask some of the best marketers I know to share some of their home runs in 2018.
Here’s the advice they gave me. I’m sharing it here so that you can implement these tactics for yourself in 2019.
1. Building relationships with tools in our space
Content is synonymous with digital marketing, to the point that nearly everyone is investing in it to some extent. This means standing out and getting results from content has never been harder. You need creativity, skill, and, perhaps most importantly, strategy. I learned this firsthand at Mailshake:
At the beginning of the year, we didn’t have a lot of traction in our marketing efforts, specifically around content marketing. Rather than fight that uphill battle alone, the first thing we did was make a list of all the tools in our space (SaaS for salespeople), organize them by categories (CRMs, proposal software, prospecting, etc.), and write an article featuring them. This gave us an excuse to reach out with some flattery and with a link to their site, which opened the door to other co-marketing opportunities, like guest posting, webinars, and even product partnerships. It really became the bedrock of our marketing efforts in 2018 and was a good reminder that marketing is all about relationships, both with your customers and with other marketers in your space.
You can implement something similar by strategizing and utilizing your content on multiple levels. Don’t just write an article targeting one head term and hit “publish.”
Decide who will read and benefit from the content. Include influencers, and leverage them to help distribute your content, build relationships, and open doors to other marketing opportunities.
2. Updating old content
It’s harder than ever to stand out from the competition when it comes to content, but that doesn’t mean we always have to keep creating new, better content. Sometimes we can actually get great results by revisiting and updating old content.
"One marketing tactic that we saw the biggest results from was simply giving lift to older content. We connected Google Analytics and Screaming Frog, and after crawling the website, we were able to organize the spreadsheet and drill down on blog posts that haven't been viewed in 3+ years. Then, we sorted them by topic and after reviewing each blog post we'd decide whether it was best to just trash it, merge it with another post or update it with new content, imagery and a fresh title. This strategy is something we work on a little bit each month, because it does take time. However, this allows you to focus more on the evergreen content vs. sharing short-lived blog posts. For example, we've updated this blog post on duplicate content checkers over the years, and it continues to be a top performer for us!" – Amber Ooley, Thrive Agency
Check each URL (by hand), and then decide whether the content should be:
- Combined with another post (advisable when you have multiple similar posts that are potentially competing with each other)
- Optimized and updated
- Ditched altogether
Bear in mind that if you’ve got a long history of content creation, this process won’t be easy, and it will be time-consuming. Be prepared to spread it out over many months if necessary.
3. Using SMS Chat
In many cases, live chat is the platform of choice for customers looking to communicate with a company they do (or are considering doing) business with.
Specifically, 30% of customers expect websites to offer a live chat option. For customers on mobile devices, that percentage climbs as high as 62%.
It’s clear that live chat is an asset, but some companies have seen even better results by taking their chat offline.
"Our best acquisition tactic was actually using our own tool. This past year we created an SMS Chat widget. On desktop, it looks like a live chat. The difference is that messages come in as texts and replies go as texts to the user's cell phone. This way prospects don't have to stay on our website to continue the conversation. We have several channels for bringing in traffic, and they all produce leads, but SMS Chat has boosted our sales conversions significantly. We get a lead, we text them back ASAP, and they love it. SMS Chat works on mobile sites, too. Viewers just click a button to start a text." – Kenneth Burke, Director of Marketing Text Request
Implementing this yourself is relatively simple. Add an upgraded live chat service to your website that encourages visitors to input their phone number and asks their permission for you to text them.
Once the conversation has moved away from your website, you’re in a stronger position to keep it flowing, follow up, and convert more leads into sales.
4. Forming linkbuilding partnerships
There’s so much to be gained from looking at the search results, but most of us aren’t paying them nearly enough attention. Do some digging. You’ll learn who your true competitors are and get new ideas that will help you outrank them and gain more of the clickshare.
Depending on the keywords you search for, you can also discover valuable potential link partners, which can land you a position in the top 10 for high-traffic terms that are too competitive for your own site to claim.
"For us at LiveAgent, the best marketing tactic was to look for top money keywords via an SEO tool, in our case words like “Live Chat Software,” and look for all the variants and who was included in first top 10 results. Then, we pitched all the portals and tried to get a link or partnership going. Whether it was a review portal, blog, or magazine, the exposure led to both traffic increase and improvement in rankings." – Matej Kukucka, Senior Growth Marketer, Live Agent
To implement this in your marketing strategy for 2019, pick your top money keywords, and, using either a tool or manual search, look at which sites and what content ranks in the top 10 for those terms.
Where appropriate (i.e., when the site isn’t a competitor), approach them with the goal of getting some of your own content onto those sites. If you succeed, you can still appear in the top 10 via a third-party site (even when your own site can’t break onto page one of Google for your top money keywords).
5. Hosting highly-focused webinars
Depending on the topic (and their quality), webinars can be an invaluable onboarding tool for new customers. They can also help with customer acquisition and retention.
“We really invested in webinars in 2018, and as a result they became one of our biggest lead drivers. One of the things that we've really noticed is that the more focused a webinar, the better turnout we have. We work with dental practices so topics such as HIPAA, PPOs, and proper phone skills really get a great response. Viewers are engaged during these presentations and stick around for the full hour so they can take part in a Q&A. They finally have somebody at their disposal to answer complex questions that affect their day-to-day!" – Jonathan Bass, Content Marketing Manager, RevenueWell
You’ll also need to learn how to host a webinar that engages viewers and achieves its aims. And last but not least, you’ll need to promote your webinar so the right people know about it, and actually turn up when you want them to.
6. Leveraging video through guest blogging
We’re viewing more video online than ever before. In fact, one third of online activity is spent watching video.
If you’re not part of this ever-growing trend, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on the opportunity to engage with your existing customers, as well as potential new ones.
“Our best marketing strategy in 2018 would be video marketing through YouTube. Hands down. With little investment and time spent, we focused on inbound strategies like showcasing our video quality through guest blogging and capitalized on our clients’ positive word-of-mouth to drive more people to see our content on the platform. This way, we managed to bring in over 4K new subscribers and 668K new views to our channel in 2018. An 81% and 89% increase, respectively, from our 2017 numbers.” – Victor Blasco, CEO of Yum Yum Videos
Ready to experiment with video marketing? Lucky for you, it’s never been easier to get started. You just need a halfway-decent smartphone, a bit of charisma, and some basic editing skills (or a willingness to learn them). It also helps to learn a little about YouTube optimization.
7. Developing persona-based ebook marketing
Today, written content doesn’t have to be good, or even great, to stand out. It has to be awesome. One way to start producing content that’s leaps and bounds ahead of what your competition is creating is to look beyond long-form blog content and write ebooks.
"At the beginning of the year, our content library consisted of a couple generic ebooks about branding and design. And while they performed well, we weren't really getting the lead quality we wanted. We wanted to reach out to new audiences, and that required us to dive in and truly understand what mattered to them. Now, our library has grown to 10 ebooks that speak to various industries, such as franchises and real estate, about the challenges and opportunities most important to them.
For example, we published an ebook for marketing leaders at colleges and universities titled "Branding in student recruitment." Before writing the ebook, we didn't know much about student recruitment, but the research process helped us get up close and personal with a challenge our clients deal with intimately. Hearing about their experiences gave us a much fuller picture of their day-to-day concerns – and how our platform could help them succeed. That ebook was our most popular one this year, driving hundreds of leads via LinkedIn ads, email nurturing, and blog promotion. As a result, we've closed more higher ed clients this year than any other, showing the value of a team-wide coordinated campaign that puts your audience's unique challenges front and center." – Karla Renee, Lucidpress
As with all content formats, there are countless people producing average (or less than average) ebooks.
To get results like Renee's, you need to be much more than average. You need to be producing ebooks that are interesting, professionally written, and targeted at a specific audience – all while bringing something new to the table.
If you can achieve all that, getting into ebooks in 2019 could mean big things for your brand and your business.
8. Optimizing blog content
Writing great, unique, insightful blog content is a start, but for best results you need to be paying close attention to how you’re optimizing that content, too.
“We optimized our website for conversions. We were driving a lot of traffic to our site and had solid organic search engine rankings, but that traffic wasn’t sticking and interacting with our site. We had a lot of great content in the form of white papers, ebooks, case studies, and webinars. Our mission was to pull that content forward and drive interaction through downloads. We looked at our top entry pages and developed specific calls to action on those pages. We looked at the keywords driving traffic to those pages and matched content and CTAs to those keywords. We included the CTA in several places on the page, including links towards the top of the page, bottom CTA image, and a slide-in pop-up that appeared after the user scrolled a third of the way down the page. Here’s an example from one of our most popular blog posts: 21 Powerful, Open Ended Sales Questions. The results have been outstanding. We’ve more than doubled the conversion rate across our site, and inbound opportunities from organic search have grown by 32%.” – Erica Stritch, VP of Marketing at RAIN Group
Want to level up your content optimization in 2019?
Blog post optimization typically starts with long-tail keyword tools like KWFinder and LongTailPro, but it doesn’t need to end there. Try optimizing your content for conversions, too. Be heavier-handed with how you utilize CTAs, and, where appropriate, let keywords that drive traffic to your content influence how you phrase your CTAs.
9. Testing non-traditional social media
When you think “social media,” odds are sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram come to mind – but there is so much more to social media than these “traditional” platforms.
“In 2018, we focused more on non-traditional social media sites, such as Quora and Reddit, to try our outreach tactics and saw a great ROI. Those sites are categorized to be more specific, and they helped us reach our target audience more efficiently than general sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.
It served as a public relations type of function. Earned media and engagement rather than paid. We gave advice to people looking for software solutions that would drive them to our site and also create more brand recognition. We found these people based on specific subreddits they belonged to and/or posts they had made. It takes more time than using an automated response, but having a chance to interact with such a niche target audience group in a more personal way improved our ROI in a very valuable way.” – Mackenzie Jones, TechnologyAdvice
Want to widen your social reach beyond Facebook and Twitter?
Look at leveraging more community-based platforms, like Reddit and Quora, as well as industry or subject-specific forums.
10. Prioritizing User Experience on the blog
Today’s consumers have high expectations when it comes to online experience. If your site’s not up to scratch, you can be sure you’re not getting the results you could be.
"We doubled down on user experience this year. Focusing on improving our user experience has been incredibly useful in our SEO strategy in 2018 and helped us to triple our traffic as we placed a larger emphasis on the experience of our users, especially mobile users on the site.
We redesigned our theme to make it faster and more usable, keeping mobile users in mind. We focused a lot on performance and reduced our page load speed by 300% as a large drop-off of users were due to a large page size.
Using user data, we are also able to track where in a blog post were the majority of people dropping off and modified the content to have a CTA around that point.” – Jeremy Noronha, SEO Manager, Foundr Magazine
Ready to make UX a bigger priority in 2019?
Pay more attention to how visitors use your site. Look at the pages they drop off on and ask why. It might simply be that you’ve successfully answered their query, but there might also be a problem with the page, or the site in general.
11. Including CTAs on our top-performing blog posts
Well-written and optimized blog content is great for getting people to your site, but what then?
"Halfway through the year, we noticed that five of our top-performing blog posts made up 80% of our organic blog traffic. We decided to add two CTAs to each of these blog posts to see if we could convert any of this traffic. We used Sumo to design the CTAs, and we A/B tested different CTAs and found what worked best. We now generate daily sales from the visitors to the top five blog posts on our site thanks to our CTAs." – David Campbell, Marketing Strategist, Right Inbox
Want to get more sales from your content, too?
When someone lands on your site via a blog post, odds are they’ll get the information they need, and leave. This is what we want to stop. While you’ll never “save” every visitor, you can make a big difference to the value your content delivers by being more aggressive with your CTAs.
Include CTAs within your content and alongside it. Don’t be afraid of exit pop-ups, either – after all, if that visitor was already leaving, what do you have to lose?
So what now?
Remember, when it comes to marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all. There are too many variables to ever say “do x and you’ll get y result.” To get the best results, you need to always be experimenting.
If you’ve got any other ideas for marketing strategies to try out in 2019, I’d love to hear them. Just leave a comment below!