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What Is A Content Marketing Matrix & Do We Need One?

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What Is A Content Marketing Matrix & Do We Need One?

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s Video & Visual Storytelling Survey, 83% of marketers say video has become more important in the last two years.

Videos were always a powerful tool in the storytelling arsenal. But maybe it’s time to re-examine our content marketing matrix.

What is a content marketing matrix and do we need one in 2022?

Well, a content marketing matrix is a planning tool to help marketers generate ideas for the most engaging content types for their audiences.

A number of them have been created over the past decade, including one that I contributed to Guy Kawasaki’s book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, which was published in 2011. Here’s what it looks like:

 

Image by author, January 2022

As you can see, my Content Marketing Matrix has two dimensions:

  • Awareness through to action on the horizontal axis
  • Rational through emotional on the vertical axis.

And content marketers are supposed to use the four quadrants – entertain, inspire, educate, and enlighten – “as a starting point” to review how their content can support the goals of their B2B, B2C, or not-for-profit organizations.

Do We Need A Content Marketing Matrix In 2022?

A decade later, I don’t have a problem with using a 2×2 matrix “as a starting point.”

But it reminds me of the scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982) when Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) analyzes the tactics of Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) and observes, “He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.”

That’s why I believe experienced content marketers need a three-dimensional matrix to compete successfully in a world where:

  • YouTube has more than 2 billion monthly logged-in users.
  • 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • Video content is playing a starring role in all four quadrants.

I don’t have a problem with putting “Branded Stories” (e.g., short films, series, documentaries, inspirational videos) in the upper left quadrant of the matrix above, either. I’ve seen some entertaining branded stories go viral.

I’ve also seen some inspiring, educational, and enlightening branded stories go viral, too.

And last month, we looked at how several major brands in the U.K. use nostalgic Christmas ads to build brand awareness and connect with customers on a deeper level.

Viral Marketing: The Science Of Sharing

So, maybe it’s time to share the secret of how to create branded video content that is more likely to go viral.

Actually, it isn’t a secret. It is the subject of Karen Nelson-Field’s book, Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, which was published in October 2013.

Back then, Dr. Nelson-Field was a Senior Research Associate at the University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science.

Today, she’s the founder and CEO at Amplified Intelligence.

Her book used original research from more than two years of work, five different data sets, around 1,000 videos, nine individual studies, and a large team of researchers from Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science.

Her research found that “an emotional response is important in driving further cognitive or behavioral responses. Reactions to advertising – or anything for that matter – are rarely purely rational.”

And the data she shared shows the most engaging content types for your audiences are branded videos that can elicit intense, positive, emotional responses, using:

  • Exhilaration.
  • Inspiration.
  • Astonishment.
  • Hilarity.

If you read Dr. Nelson-Field’s book, then you’ll also learn that:

  • On average, videos that elicit intense emotions are shared twice as much as those that evoke moderate emotions, yet more than 70% of all branded videos evoke moderate emotions.
  • Branded videos that evoke feelings of exhilaration are shared more than any other intense positive emotion.
  • While professional video creators may be aiming to create hilarious branded content, most are falling well short of the amateurs.

The most engaging holiday ads of 2021 indicate that Dr. Nelson-Field’s findings are still valid today.

Unruly Reveals Top Emotionally Engaging Holiday Ads Of 2021

Each year, Unruly tests holiday ads and measures them based upon emotional intensity, brand favorability, happiness, and an overall “EQ Score.”

Unruly is a global video and Connected TV (CTV) advertising platform. But, content marketers can learn some important lessons from them about how to generate ideas for the most engaging content types for their audiences.

And it’s worth noting that Dr. Nelson-Field worked with Unruly a decade ago to develop an earlier version of their methodology.

This year, Unruly analyzed the emotional responses of approximately 9,700 consumers around the world to more than 50 holiday ads using its content measurement tool, UnrulyEQ.

This tool helps advertisers maximize the impact of their video content across multiple screens, lift brand metrics more effectively, and target receptive audiences at scale.

Unruly’s annual Christmas Ad Effectiveness Chart uses their combined metric, EQ Score, to rank the most popular festive ads based on their emotional, social, and business impact.

It also benchmarks them against the average level of emotional response to advertisements in each market. And the intensity of emotions, brand favorability, authenticity, and purchase intent that viewers felt while watching an ad all contribute to its final score.

Carol Gillard, the VP of Marketing & Communications at Unruly, observed several interesting trends:

  • “As December 2020 approached, brands went out of their way to relate to the uncertainty of holidays amidst a global pandemic. Messages last year reflected the change in storied traditions and adaptability of consumers as they still attempted to bring cheer into their holiday season.
  • “By comparison, many in the 2021 crop of holiday ads do not reference or allude to Covid-19, and instead seek to create nostalgia for Christmases past, and excite consumers about gathering and celebrating with their nearest and dearest.”

Gillard also spotted several other trends in this year’s top-rated ads:

  • Top-performing ads have high EQ scores (above 6 or 7), and demonstrate a combination of intense emotional response, brand favorability, and purchase intent by viewers.
  • Several top ads use animation, including Chick-fil-A’s “Whoopsery” ad, and Macy’s “Tiptoe and the Flying Machine,” which is reminiscent of the iconic stop motion animation holiday movies of the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Nostalgic pop music, like repurposed hits by Queen and Hall & Oates, tested very well this year.
  • Top ads featured a lot of diversity (both in age and race, often together), particularly in the US as well as in the UK and the Philippines.

Let’s start with “Wegmans Holiday Commercial 2021,” which was ranked #1 in the US.

The video’s description says, “The holidays are about sharing, caring, and enjoying great food. Watch as a little boy shows us that you don’t have to be all grown up to be a big helper. Let’s get back to happy, together.”

The ad from Wegmans Food Markets scored 61% in Emotional Intensity, 53% in Brand Favorability, and 38% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 7.3.

Wegmans Food Markets selected Optic Sky, an advertising and digital experience production company, to produce this ad.

I asked Aaron Gordon, the CEO of Optic Sky, “What was your thinking/strategy behind the Wegmans approach to holiday advertising at this particular time in history?”

Gordon said, “This holiday spot is part of the Wegmans ‘Back to Happy’ campaign, which comprises three ads in total. It’s the first ad campaign Wegmans has run since the start of the pandemic, so it was important to consider the state of Covid-19 at the time.

On one hand, it seemed as though we were making real progress; vaccines were finally available, the economy was rebounding, and schools and stadiums were opening back up. On the other hand, we knew that Covid was unpredictable.

He added, “The Wegmans internal creative agency decided to focus all three ads on the values they as a company share with their customers, who represent all walks of life.

The Optic Sky team worked closely with Wegmans to create ads that evoke a warm, human, and nostalgic tone, while touching upon our shared yearning to leave the pandemic behind (as the campaign name, ‘Back to Happy,’ implies).

Together, we emphasized our common humanity, love of family, and hope for the future with scenes of joy, sincere caring, and family meals.”

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year | Frito-Lay” ranked #2 in the US.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_MqkvjNpFw

The video’s description says, “Share more joy this Holi-LAY’S season with Jimmy Fallon and your Frito-Lay favorites.”

Frito-Lay’s ad scored 55% in Emotional Intensity, 45% in Brand Favorability, and 36% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 7.3.

The Whoopsery | Stories of Evergreen Hills | Created by Chick-fil-A” ranked #3 in the US.

This video’s description says, “Sam is back for another adventure this holiday season, and she brought a friend! After an unfortunate mishap, while decorating Cece’s family Christmas tree, Sam and Cece try to make it right and end up in a magical place called The Whoopsery.”

Chick-fil-A’s ad scored 56% in Emotional Intensity, 49% in Brand Favorability, and 36% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 7.1.

Macy’s Presents: Tiptoe and the Flying Machine” ranked #4 in the US.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwIUIrk56cQ

The video’s description says, “This is the story of Tiptoe. A little reindeer with a big problem. She’s absolutely terrified of flying. So her friends get together and teach her a very important lesson: if you believe in yourself, there’s no telling how high you can soar.”

Macy’s ad scored 53% in Emotional Intensity, 48% in Brand Favorability, and 33% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 6.9.

And, “OREO ‘A Holiday Twist’ :30” ranked #5 in the US.

This video’s description says, “The holidays’ favorite cookie #OREO #StayPlayful.”

And, Oreo’s ad scored 45% in Emotional Intensity, 41% in Brand Favorability, and 29% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 6.7.

Unruly also tested ads in the UK. But, their methodology is different than Kantar’s, so we shouldn’t be surprised that Unruly’s results differ from the ones that I wrote about last month.

This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us l Tesco #NothingsStoppingUs” ranked #1 in the UK.

This video’s description says, “After last year, we’re determined to make it a good one. This Christmas, #NothingsStoppingUs.”

Tesco’s ad scored 36% in Emotional Intensity, 40% in Brand Favorability, and 20% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 6.9.

Spread The Merry” ranked #1 in Australia.

The description says, “The members of our letterbox choir are spreading the merry far and wide this year. Head to auspost.com.au/christmas to find out how you can #SpreadTheMerry.”

Australia Post’s ad scored 30% in Emotional Intensity, 37% in Brand Favorability, and 20% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 6.5.

THE STEPDAD | Disney Christmas Advert 2021 | Disney Channel UK” ranked #1 in the Philippines.

The video’s description says, “We are proud to reveal our Christmas advert, a heart-warming new story; #TheStepdad.

“This year’s story follows Nicole, the granddaughter from last year’s ad, who is now all grown up with a family to make Christmas traditions with. We follow her and her two adorable children, Max and Ella, as their new stepdad Mike moves into their family home.

“At the heart of the story is a very special storybook – a precious item belonging to Max from his birth father.

The book celebrates the power of storytelling and how it can deepen family bonds; as the family are shown delighting in the magic of Disney storytelling, beautiful animation springs off the pages, igniting the true spirit of Christmas.

Follow their emotional journey as we see them combine existing festive traditions with wonderful new ones. We hope you enjoy this special Christmas ad, celebrating the joy that the stepdads of the world bring us.”

Disney UK’s video scored 88% in Emotional Intensity, 86% in Brand Favorability, and 73% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 6.9 in the Philippines.

FAMILIE IST DAS SCHÖNSTE GESCHENK | DISNEY WEIHNACHTS-SPOT 2021 – lange Version | Disney HD” ranked #1 in Germany.

Disney Deutschland’s ad scored 40% in Emotional Intensity, 32% in Brand Favorability, and 23% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 6.3 in Germany.

Finally, “Smile. Your special table is set” ranked #1 in Singapore.

This video’s description says, “This holiday season, connect with loved ones both near and far away over the dinner table. Dress your party table with elegant dinnerware, handmade glass, candles and twinkling fairy lights.

Exchange baskets filled with gifts and enjoy quality time with friends and family, even if they are an internet connection away.”

IKEA Singapore’s ads scored 41% in Emotional Intensity, 55% in Brand Favorability, and 23% in Happiness to get an overall EQ Score of 6.7.

“You can observe a lot by just watching”

Now, some content marketers are going to look at the top emotionally engaging holiday ads above, scratch their heads, and say, “But, those are YouTube ads!”

Yes, they are. And, according to the Content Marketing Video Survey mentioned above, re-purposed ads (long-form versions of TV ads) are one of the video types that produced the best content marketing results in the last 12 months.

And, as Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

Besides, a content marketing matrix is supposed to help us generate ideas for the most engaging content types for our audiences.

So, if we mistakenly think that we can’t learn lessons from the top emotionally engaging holiday ads of 2021, then we’ve got to ask ourselves: “Does this pattern indicate two-dimensional thinking?”

While we’re at it, we’ve also got to ask a couple of other related questions:

  • If our lawyers will approve the content of emotionally engaging ads, then why can’t we get them to approve emotionally engaging marketing content?
  • If executives will okay the budget for emotionally engaging ads, then why can’t we get them to okay the budget for emotionally engaging marketing content?

To transform this situation, we need to go beyond producing more videos in 2022. We need to make videos worth watching and create content worth sharing.

And, there are plenty of examples of branded videos that are emotionally engaging even though they aren’t ads.

If you want to see one, just watch “Google — Year In Search 2021.

The description of Google’s branded video says, “In a year that continued to test many, the world searched “how to heal” more than ever.

Whether they’re taking care of mental health, honoring a loved one, or reuniting with family, people are finding ways to come back stronger than before.”

Uploaded on Nov. 22, 2021, it currently has 223 million views and 167,000 engagements (e.g. likes, comments, shares).

And, if you mistakenly think that B2B videos have to be rational or boring, then check out “‘Zero Tolerance Machining’ with the Wire EDM – Part 1 | US Digital #Shorts.”

US Digital designs and manufactures motion control products for OEM manufacturers as well as end users.  The description of their branded video says, “Our machine shop can cut metal so precisely using our wire EDM that two parts fit together with virtually no gap between.”

Uploaded on Oct. 27, 2021, it currently has 31.1 million views and 1.4 million engagements.

We Need A Three-Dimensional Content Marketing Matrix

Looking forward, the B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2022 report produced by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs says, “The top content marketing-related area of investment for 2022 is expected to be video (69%).

This makes sense, as businesses have shifted online, and marketers look for new/more ways to tell compelling stories to capture and keep audience attention.”

And, during a webinar on “International digital marketing strategy for 2022 and beyond,” which was held Dec. 14, 2021, Gemma Houghton, the Director of Marketing at Webcertain, shared the following stats to illustrate why this may finally be “the year of video”:

  • “By 2022, 82% of global internet traffic will come from streaming videos and downloads” (Cisco Annual Internet Report).
  • “Social video generates 1,200% more shares than text and image content” (Wordstream).
  • “50.9% of B2B decision-makers use YouTube to research purchases” (Hootsuite).

All of this is – potentially – good news. Hopefully, most content marketers won’t blow this opportunity by cranking out more branded videos that evoke moderate emotions.

Now, I realize that eliciting intense emotions sounds risky. So, let me close with an excerpt from an interview in WARC’s “Insights from the 2021 Creative Effectiveness Lions winners.”

WARC asked Ann Mukherjee, who is Chairman and CEO at Pernod Ricard North America and was President of the 2021 Creative Effectiveness Lions jury, “What stood out to you about the Grand Prix winner, Nike’s Dream Crazy?”

Mukherjee said, “We felt that Dream Crazy was the next chapter in advertising, helping the industry think about what’s possible and redefining the roles brands can play in making a positive dent in the universe.”

She added, “It’s also important to remember that Nike was actually solving a business problem around its relevance to younger consumers.

This audience does not only want to buy brands, they want to buy into brands. Nike took a risk because it understood that’s what it took. With many of the award winners this year, we wanted to send a message to the industry that they should take a risk.

A lot of these campaigns start with a business objective but go on to change lives. It’s a virtuous cycle that we wish to see more brands embracing: touching lives is what makes people come to your brand.”

That’s why we need to use a three-dimensional content marketing matrix “as a starting point” to generate ideas for the most engaging content types for our audiences. Then, we’ve also got to think outside the box.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi




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Bing Revamps Crawl System To Enhance Efficiency

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Bing Revamps Crawl System To Enhance Efficiency

According to a recent study by Bing, most websites have XML sitemaps, with the “lastmod” tag being the most critical component of these sitemaps.

The “lastmod” tag indicates the last time the webpages linked by the sitemap were modified and is used by search engines to determine how often to crawl a site and which pages to index.

However, the study also revealed that a significant number of “lastmod” values in XML sitemaps were set incorrectly, with the most prevalent issue being identical dates on all sitemaps.

Upon consulting with web admins, Microsoft discovered that the dates were set to the date of sitemap generation rather than content modification.

To address this issue, Bing is revamping its crawl scheduling stack to better utilize the information provided by the “lastmod” tag in sitemaps.

This will improve crawl efficiency by reducing unnecessary crawling of unchanged content and prioritizing recently updated content.

The improvements have already begun on a limited scale and are expected to roll out by June fully.

Additionally, Microsoft has updated sitemap.org for improved clarity by adding the following line:

“Note that the date must be set to the date the linked page was last modified, not when the sitemap is generated.”

How To Use The Lastmod Tag Correctly

To correctly set the “lastmod” tag in a sitemap, you should include it in the <url> tag for each page in the sitemap.

The date should be in W3C Datetime format, with the most commonly used formats being YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssTZD.

The date should reflect the last time the page was modified and should be updated regularly to ensure that search engines understand the relevance and frequency of updates.

Here’s an example code snippet:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″>

   <url>

      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>

      <lastmod>2023-01-23</lastmod>      

   </url>

Google’s Advice: Use Lastmod Tag After Significant Changes Only

Google’s crawlers also utilize the “lastmod” tag, and the suggestions on using it by both major search engines are similar.

Google Search Advocate John Mueller recently discussed the lastmod tag in the January edition of Google’s office-hours Q&A sessions.

It’s worth noting that Google recommends only using the “lastmod” tag for substantial modifications, which was not mentioned in Microsoft’s blog post.

Changing the date in the lastmod tag after minor edits can be viewed as an attempt to manipulate search snippets.

In Summary

Microsoft’s recent study and efforts to improve the utilization of the “lastmod” tag in sitemaps will result in more efficient and effective webpage crawling.

Publishers are encouraged to regularly update their sitemaps and lastmod tags to ensure that their pages are correctly indexed and easily accessible by search engines.


Featured Image: mundissima/Shutterstock

Source: Microsoft



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Everything You Need To Know

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Everything You Need To Know

Now more than ever, marketing and sales leaders are taking a critical look at where to allocate their resources and how to staff their teams.

Attribution modeling is one of the best tools for providing clear guidance on what’s working, and what isn’t.

What Is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the approach to understanding how various marketing and sales touchpoints influence the prospects’ move from visitor, to lead, to customer.

By implementing attribution in your organization, you’ll have a better idea of:

  • Which channels are most influential during different phases of the sales cycle.
  • Which content formats are more or less impactful in your marketing or sales enablement efforts.
  • Which campaigns drove the most revenue and return on investment (ROI).
  • The most common sequence of online or offline events that prospects interact with before becoming a customer.

Why Is Attribution Important In Marketing?

Analyzing attribution data provides you with an understanding of which marketing, sales, and customer success efforts are contributing most effectively and efficiently toward revenue generation.

Attribution modeling helps you identify opportunities for growth and improvement, while also informing budget allocation decisions.

With accurate attribution models, marketers are able to make more informed decisions about their campaigns, which has allowed them to increase ROI and reduce wasted budgets on ineffective strategies.

What Are The Challenges Of Marketing Attribution?

Developing a perfect attribution model that guides all of your decisions is a pipedream for most marketers.

Here are five challenges that result in inconclusive data models or total project abandonment:

Cross-Channel Management

This is a common challenge for enterprise marketers who have web assets across multiple websites, channels, and teams.

Without proper analytics tagging and system settings configuration, your web activities may not be tracked accurately as a visitor goes from one campaign micro-site to the main domain.

Or, the prospect may not be tracked as they go from your website to get directions to then go to your physical storefront to transact.

Making Decisions Based On Small Sample Sizes

For smaller trafficked websites, marketers using attribution data may not have statistically significant data sets to draw accurate correlations for future campaigns.

This results in faulty assumptions and the inability to repeat prior success.

Lack Of Tracking Compliance

If your attribution models rely on offline activities, then you may require manual imports of data or proper logging of sales activities.

From my experience in overseeing hundreds of CRM implementations, there is always some level of non-compliance in logging activities (like calls, meetings, or emails). This leads to skewed attribution models.

Mo‘ models, mo’ problems: Each analytics platform has a set of five or more attribution models you can use to optimize your campaigns around.

Without a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each model, the person building the attribution reporting may not be structuring or configuring them to align with your organizational goals.

Data Privacy

Since GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy laws were enacted, analytics data continues to get murkier each year.

For organizations that rely on web visitors to opt-in to tracking, attribution modeling suffers due to the inability to pull in tracking for every touchpoint.

How Do You Measure Marketing Attribution?

Measuring attribution is all about giving credit where it is due. There are dozens of attribution tools out there to assign credit to the digital or offline touchpoint.

Attribution measurement starts with choosing the data model that aligns with your business goals.

Certain attribution models favor interactions earlier on in the customer journey whereas others give the most credit towards interactions closer to a transaction.

Here is a scenario of how to measure marketing attribution in a first-touch attribution model (we’ll get to the different models next):

A prospect comes to the website through a paid search ad and reads the blog.

Two days later, she comes back to the site and views a couple of product pages.

Three days later, she comes back through an organic listing from Google and then converts on the site by signing up for a discount coupon.

With a first-touch attribution model, the paid search ad will get 100% of the credit for that conversion.

As you can see, choosing the “right” model can be a contentious issue, as each model gives a percentage of credit to a specific interaction or placement along the path toward becoming a customer.

If your business relies on paid search, SEO, offline, and other channels, then likely one of the individuals working on one of those channels is going to look like the superhero, whereas the other marketers will look like they aren’t pulling their weight.

Ideally, when you are choosing an attribution tool, you’ll be able to build reports that allow you to compare various attribution models, so you have a better understanding of which channels and interactions are most influential during certain time periods leading up to conversion or purchase.

What Are Different Marketing Attribution Models?

Marketers can use various marketing attribution models to examine the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Each attribution tool has will have a handful of models you can optimize campaigns and build reports around. Here is a description of each model:

First-Click Attribution

This model gives credit to the first channel that the customer interacted with.

This model is popular to use when optimizing for brand awareness and top-of-funnel conversions/engagement.

Last-Click Attribution

This model gives all of the credit to the last channel that the customer interacts with.

This model is useful when looking to understand which channels/interactions were most influential immediately before converting/purchasing.

Last-click attribution is the default attribution model for Google Analytics.

Multi-Touch/Channel Attribution

This model gives credit to all of the channels or touchpoints that the customer interacted with throughout their journey.

This model is used when you are looking to give weight evenly or to specific interactions.

There are variations of the multi-touch model including time-decay, linear, U-shaped, W-shaped, and J-shaped.

Customized

This model allows you to manually set the weight for individual channels or placements within the customer journey.

This model is best for organizations that have experience in using attribution modeling, and have clear goals for what touchpoints are most impactful in the buyers’ journey.

Marketing Attribution Tools

There are several different tools available to help marketers measure and analyze marketing attribution. Some attribution tools are features within marketing automation platforms or CRM systems like Active Campaign or HubSpot.

Others are stand-alone attribution tools that rely on API or integrations to pull in and analyze data, like Triple Whale or Dreamdata.

As you are evaluating tools, consider how much offline or sales data needs to be included within your attribution models.

For systems like HubSpot, you can include sales activities (like phone calls and 1:1 sales emails) and offline list import data (from tradeshows).

Other tools, like Google Analytics, are not natively built to pull in that kind of data and would require advanced development work to include these activities as part of your model.

(Full disclosure: I work with HubSpot’s highest-rated partner agency, SmartBug Media.)

Additionally, if you need to be able to see the very specific touchpoints (like a specific email sent or an ad clicked), then you need a full-funnel attribution system that shows this level of granularity.

Attribution modeling is a powerful tool that marketers can use to measure the success of their campaigns, optimize online/offline channels, and improve customer interactions.

It is important, though, to understand attribution’s limitations, the pros and cons of each model, and the challenges with extracting conclusive data before investing large budgets towards attribution technology.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Yuriy K/Shutterstock



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Lead Generation: How To Get Started

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Lead Generation: How To Get Started

Today’s consumers have an almost limitless amount of information at their fingertips. Podcasts, videos, blog posts, and social media – are just a few of the sources that can drive them toward one brand over another.

If it’s your job to attract these potential customers, you know the struggles of generating high-quality leads.

In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at lead generation, discussing the different types of leads you could attract and providing some strategies and examples for lead gen that you can put to use right away.

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is a marketing process of capturing potential consumers who show interest in your product or service.

The goal is to connect with people early in the buying process, earn their trust and build a relationship so that, when they’re ready to make a purchase, they buy from you.

But lead generation also serves secondary objectives, including building brand awareness, collecting customer data, and fostering brand loyalty.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember that not everyone who visits your store or website is a lead.

That’s why successful lead gen goes after specific targets, using a variety of platforms and strategies including:

  • Landing pages – Using a tracking pixel, landing pages collect information about visitors you can later use to target them for sales.
  • Email – Email is a great lead generation tool because the recipients will have opted in, which means they’re already familiar with your brand.
  • Social media – With unmatched opportunities for engagement, your social media accounts are a great way to encourage your targets to take action.
  • Blogs – A great way to establish authority and provide value, blogs are also a great place to promote specific offers.
  • Live events – When it comes to qualifying leads, live events are a great way to meet your target audience and quickly identify the ones more likely to make a purchase.
  • Coupons and other promotions – Offering a discount or free item is a great way to encourage targets to provide their contact information.

What will ultimately work best for you will depend on your niche and your audience.

As you experiment with different lead generation strategies, you may find one more successful than the others. This means you should probably make that channel your priority, whereas others may not be of any use at all.

But we’ll get to all that later.

First, let’s talk about leads.

The Different Types Of Leads

Sales is the engine that drives any business. Without sales, there’s no revenue. Without revenue, there’s no business. So, it’s kind of important.

But it’s a massive field. The approach a medical monitoring sensor salesperson takes is going to be very different from a used car salesman.

But both of them – and every other sales professional for that matter – have one thing in common: they need to spend most of their time pursuing the people who are most likely to buy.

In general, leads fall into seven categories:

  • Hot Leads – These leads are ready to convert. They are qualified and interested in your offering, and are the most likely to convert to a sale. For example, this might be the purchasing director who has had several conversations with you and received a product demo. They have purchasing authority and a timeline.
  • Cold Leads – These are potential customers who may be unfamiliar with your brand or offering. As of yet, they have shown no interest in what you’re selling. Generally speaking, these are the hardest leads to convert to sales.
  • Warm Leads – A middle ground between the two previous types of leads, these are people who are familiar with who you are and what you offer. They’re the type who watch your videos or read your blogs, but haven’t contacted you directly. Your goal is to warm them up into hot leads.
  • Information Qualified Leads (IQLs) – This is the kind of lead who has already shown some interest in your company and has followed a call to action. Maybe they signed up for your email newsletter or filled out a lead generation form. They are often looking for more information and will react positively to a nurturing campaign.
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) – MQLs are one step further down the pipeline from IQLs. They are actively searching for a solution that fits their needs, and are trying to discover if yours is the right fit. These are the types of leads who will download your whitepapers, watch your videos, and attend your corporate seminars.
  • Sales Ready Leads (SRLs) – Sometimes called “accepted leads,” these are the bottom-of-the-funnel leads who are almost ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. It’s important to understand their budgets, purchasing authority, needs, and timeframe.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) – These leads are ready to buy and should be in communication with your sales team. They are considered very hot, however, you should be aware that they are likely still considering some of your competitors.

The Lead Generation Process

As you have probably gathered by this point, lead generation is a multiple-step process.

Yours will vary, depending on whether you’re focusing on inbound or outbound generation – but both should follow a similar pathway.

Step 1: Do Your Research

Before you start trying to collect leads, you need to gather as much information as possible about your target audience. You want to know not just who they are, but where they live, what’s important to them, and most importantly, what their pain points are, particularly those that are the most pressing.

It’s often a good idea to create customer personas, in which you define the demographics, budget, and needs of typical customers. You may want to consider social habits, professional experience, and even psychological traits.

Once you know who you’re going after, it’s time to identify where they are. Are they active on Facebook, or more likely to respond to an email? Again, this will vary depending on your specific circumstances.

This is also the stage where you should check out the competition. What are they doing? What differentiates your offering from theirs? And most importantly, why is it better?

Step 2: Create Great Content

By now, you should know what needs your offering fills for your potential customers. Use this information to create content that solves it.

Your choice of medium will affect your content format. For example, videos work great on social media, but you can’t embed them in an email.

Likewise, if you’re going after your target audience on Twitter, your lengthy blogs are going to need to be linked to, or at the very least truncated.

Never forget your focus is on adding value. Each piece of content you create should serve a specific purpose, whether that’s educating your audience about your offering, building brand awareness or promoting a sale.

Step 3: Develop A Lead Generation Database

You can have the hottest leads on the planet, but they won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t handle them the right way.

You should create and use a lead database where you can record, study, filter, and segment your potential customers.

Ideally, you’ll want to get an automated CRM system to dramatically reduce the labor involved with this.

Most of these will allow you to tag leads based on the type and how hot they are. This allows your sales team to work through their lists in a more efficient manner, dedicating the most attention to those with the biggest chance of converting.

Step 4: Qualify And Score Leads

Not all leads are going to be in the same place in the sales funnel. Some will be ready to buy today, while others may just be getting an idea of what’s out there.

You need to adjust your approach based on this.

Most companies use a lead scoring system of 1-100, which indicates approximately where the lead is in the customer journey. They are assigned points based on their actions, with more serious actions resulting in more points.

For example, following your Facebook page could be worth 10 points, filling out a “Request a demo” form might be worth 20, and opening and reading an email could be 5. If a lead does all three of these, their lead score would be 35.

These numbers will give you a general idea of where they are from the following stages:

  • New leads, who have just made initial contact.
  • Working leads, with whom you have had contact and initiated a conversation.
  • Nurturing leads, who are not interested in buying right now, but might in the future.
  • Unqualified leads, who are not interested in your offering. These are sometimes called “dead leads.”
  • Qualified leads, or those who want to do business with you.

Obviously, you should focus more time and energy on the leads that have a higher probability of converting.

Lead Generation Strategies And Examples

The ways you can generate leads are practically endless, but in this section, we’ll discuss some of the more common strategies you can employ, plus give you examples of them at work.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the practice of creating engaging and informative content that provides value for leads and customers, thereby generating interest in a business.

This can span both traditional and digital marketing, and is an important part of any successful marketing strategy. It can include things like newsletters, podcasts, videos, and social media.

You can use content marketing for any stage of the sales funnel, from growing brand awareness with timely blogs, creating demand or demonstrating thought leadership with white papers, driving organic traffic via SEO, building trust, and earning customer loyalty.

To make the most of yours, offer many opt-in opportunities and make them more enticing by adding discounts, guides, or something of value in exchange.

Email Marketing

Email remains a popular choice for lead generation for a good reason: it works.

A study by Mailchimp found 22.71% of marketing emails were opened, with some industries seeing even higher rates.

Whether you’re sending out a monthly newsletter or a cold outreach email to a potential prospect, email remains one of your best bets for generating new leads.

One of the more cost-effective means of generating leads, email marketing also allows you to segment your targets with customized content that promotes maximum engagement.

Another reason email marketing is a favorite for so many organizations is that it provides incredible opportunities for tracking. A quality CRM will give you a lot of useful data, including open rate, engagement time, and subscriber retention, allowing you to fine-tune your campaigns.

Social Media Marketing

Almost everyone is on social media these days, which makes it the ideal place to hunt down leads.

Social media platforms not only allow you to directly interact with your followers, but they also let you create advertising targeted at highly specific audiences.

Interaction is simplified thanks to multiple user-friendly CTAs like Instagram Stories’ skip option and truncated URLs on Twitter.

Screenshot from Facebook, January 2023

Social media is also a great place to run contests or share gated content.

You can use paid ads like the one above to target new leads,  share content that will generate them organically, or ideally, a mix of both.

Coupons, Discounts, And Free Trials

If you’re like many people, you may be reluctant to provide your email address to businesses in case they start spamming your inbox.

As a business, however, this can be a problem.

The way to overcome this trepidation is to offer people something of value in return for their contact information.

A risk-free trial or discount code is a powerful tool for overcoming sales barriers. And once a target has tried your offering, you can retarget them with additional offers to encourage a sale.

Give them a free gift, offer a coupon, or allow them to take your product for a test drive, and you’ll find many more people willing to give you their info.

Free pizza couponScreenshot from author, January 2023

Online Ads

Display advertisements are videos and images that pop up as you’re browsing websites, apps, and social media.

They, along with paid search and PPC, are a great way to reach your intended customers where they are.

Display ads are particularly useful for targeting leads across the buyers’ journey, as well as promoting awareness and sales, promotions, or new products.

google search ads result for chairsScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Remarketing ads are a great way to reengage leads who have stopped short of a purchase, while non-intrusive native ads are perfect for extending your content marketing efforts.

Referral Marketing

A great way to find new leads is to let your existing customers find them for you. Encourage them to write reviews or recommend friends in return for a discount or something else of value.

AAA insurance referral adImage from AAA Insurance, January 2023

This is an excellent way to fill your funnel of leads – and make more sales. Referrals and online reviews give you an authenticity and trust level that no in-house marketing campaign can ever duplicate.

Did you know that when shopping online, more than 99.9% of people read reviews? Or that 94% of consumers acknowledged positive reviews made them more likely to support a business? And that’s not even including the power of personal recommendations from friends and family.

Referral marketing is a great tool for lead generation because it presents your brand in a positive light to more people.

Best Practices For Lead Generation

To ensure you’re getting the most out of your lead generation efforts, keep these tips in mind:

Use Your Data

You likely have a lot of information about leads and the types of strategies that work for them already at your fingertips.

Gather yours by looking at previous pieces that have worked well, whether it’s blogs that get a lot of reads, emails that have a high open-rate, or display ads that bring in a lot of traffic.

Look for general themes or things you did differently on high-performers. This will give you insight into the kind of things that resonate with your audience.

Be Consistent With Messaging

Make sure it’s very obvious to any web visitor or email recipient what action they should take next. Offer them a reason to click your links and keep your messaging clear and consistent.

You should maintain the same tone of voice across channels as you move prospects through the sales funnel. Remember, you’re not just interested in capturing data – you’re trying to create a customer.

A/B Testing

Every marketer knows the importance of testing different versions of collateral. This is because, no matter how well something is performing, it could always do better.

You should experiment with different headlines, images, body copy, etc.

Just remember to only test one aspect at once, lest you miss which change made a difference.

And again, don’t forget the opt-ins.

Use The Power Of CRM Technology

To ensure your sales and marketing teams are operating as efficiently as possible, but a lead generation platform to work for you.

The right tool can help you gather information about your targets, monitor their behavior on your website and identify what’s driving them to you.

Armed with this data, you can then optimize your pages and campaigns to better target your audience.

Create Enticing Offers At Every Stage

People at different stages of the purchasing journey want different things.

Someone who is just curious about seeing what’s out there isn’t likely to respond to a free demo offer, but someone who is further along the funnel might.

Make sure you’re offering something for every buying stage and that you have clear CTAs throughout your materials.

Integrate Social Media

Social media is the ideal platform for initiating conversations and interactions with leads at all stages.

While many marketers typically think of it as primarily for top-of-funnel targeting, by strategically using proven offers and other things of value, you can also go after those leads who are closer to making a purchase.

Clean Up Your Landing Pages

Users want information presented to them in a clean, easy-to-understand manner. No one is trying to read “War and Peace” to find a new vending machine supplier.

Put your important information at the top, and make it clear where visitors can input their information to contact you or get content.

Use Your Partners

Co-marketing is a great way to generate new leads because it allows you to piggyback on the efforts of partner companies.

Create mutually beneficial offers and you’ll spend the word about your brand to a larger audience, which will attract new leads.

Bring Your Sales Team In

Marketers prime the pump, but sales drives the action. Make sure to loop your sales team into the lead generation process early and often.

They will likely have personal insight into what works best to move targets along the purchasing path.

This will also ensure you remain on the same page as far as what terms mean.

Remarket, Remarket, Remarket

Almost no one makes a purchase on first contact, particularly in B2B sales. That makes remarketing an important arrow for your quiver.

It helps turn bouncers into leads and abandoners into customers – and it amplifies all your other marketing activities.

Make Lead Generation A Priority

No one ever said it was easy to find, score, and qualify leads, but it’s an important part of ensuring the growth and financial health of your business.

Nurturing customers and potential customers is hard work. But without it, you’ll struggle to make new sales.

This piece only covered lead generation from a high level, but hopefully, it has equipped you with some strategies you can employ to attract new leads and nurture existing ones.

If you only take a single thing away from this make it this: Put most of your efforts into higher-quality leads, because they’re the ones who are most likely to make a purchase.

And remember – lead generation is an ongoing process. You’re not going to see results overnight, but if you put in the work, you’ll start to generate the results you want.

Happy hunting.

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Featured Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock



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