Drip Marketing

October 19, 2010

According to About.com, drip marketing is a direct marketing strategy that involves sending out several promotional pieces over a period of time to a subset of sales leads. The phrase drip marketing comes from the common phrase used in agriculture and gardening called “drip irrigation.” This is the process of watering plants or crops.

Marketing tactics for Alliance Partners can vary widely, but I do advocate that you look at a way of staying in regular communication with your customers and prospects.

Drip Marketing Mediums

Wikipedia claims that the main mediums for Drip Marketing are:

E-mail. The most commonly used form of drip marketing is E-mail marketing, due to the low cost associated with sending multiple messages over time. Email drip marketing is often used in conjunction with a Form (web) in a method called an Autoresponder. In this method, a lead completes the form on a company’s website and is then enrolled in a drip marketing campaign with messaging appropriate to the form’s context.

Direct Mail. Although more costly, direct mail software has been developed that enables drip marketing techniques using standard postal mail. This technology relies on digital printing, where low-volume print runs are cost justifiable, and the variable data can be merged to personalize each drip message.

Social Media. The principles of Drip Marketing have been applied in many social media marketing tools to schedule a series of updates. One popular tool, HootSuite, allows users to time messages and dissemenate via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and several other social media sites simultaneously.

Plan of Action

Drip marketing is it requires a plan of action. By creating this plan and following it throughout the year you can guarantee consistent with your marketing. To get started:

  • Step 1: Develop your Plan (Plan something EVERY month)
  • Step 2: Strategize the Execution of Your Plan
  • Step 3: Decide who your Target is.
  • Step 4: Create consistency by developing your slogan or phrase. Then place it on every promotional and marketing piece.

You want to be careful not to just ‘spam’ your database. So, make sure that your content is relavant with an intent to educate them about the types of applications and solutions you provide. Success stories are nice, but so is a thoughtful article about the challenges that your customers face. If you are interested in reading more, there is a good article at  Drip Marketing: Slow and Steady Wins the Customer.


SEO (4 of 4) – Promoting Content Off-Page

September 21, 2010

Finally, we’ll be talking about promoting content off the page.  Of all the things you can do to optimize your content for search, this is the most important.  This is how Google is determining your popularity and putting you at the top of the results page.

Run with the Popular Crowd

Gaining popularity by link building is the key to getting to the top of the results.  It’s more important than anything else you’ll be doing to optimize your page.  Here are some tips for building links.  First, get links from trusted and relevant sites.  Examples of trusted sites are credible institutions like .edus and .govs, user-generated content like blogs and forums, popular sites that Google deems particular relevant and important for a keyword (a good way to find this out is to search the term – popular sites will show up at the top of the results page), and then content rich sites. 

The more links there are on a page, the less value those links have to Google.  Relevancy is just as important as trustworthiness.  It will actually hurt you if your site is about test and automation and you get a link from a blog on women’s fashion.  You should also focus on getting links from external pages as opposed to internal pages.  At NI, we’ve got a lot of content, so it’s pretty easy to build links to our pages from within the site, but for Google, it’s more important that we get links from outside of ni.com.  It’s more valuable if someone else says your popular than you say your popular.  Finally, try to get links from unique domains.  A domain is the name of a website or URL.  Ni.com is our domain name.  It’s more valuable to get 15 links from 15 different domains than 15 links from one domain.

How to Build Links to Your Site

First, create excite content.  Again, Google is trying to reward good content.  If people are really excited about what you do as a company, they are naturally going to talk about you and link back to your site.  You can even create exciting content on an external blog and point back to your site from there.  Then you get some external links to boot.  Next, build relationships.  Build relationships with editors to write articles for you, build relationships with bloggers in your industry to get them to write posts on you.  Next, post comments on blogs and forums related to your industry.  Social  media is a great way to get links back to your site.

Building credibility and popularity through links takes some time, so it’s important to start investing in it early and keep at it until you see the results you want on Google.

Things to Avoid

There are some things to be aware of when you are creating links.  The biggest we’ve already talked about, which is making sure the site is credible and relevant.  “Nofollow” is also good to avoid.  “Nofollow” is an HTML tag used to instruct search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the page’s value in the rankings.  Essentially, it is a vote that doesn’t count.  So don’t waste time posting a link if you aren’t going to get credit for it.  How can you tell if a link is “nofollow”?  Firefox has a great SEO tool that will highlight the “nofollow” links on a page for you.  That way you can easily see if the entire comments section is off limits for SEO-valuable links.  Why would sites want to use “nofollow”? A  lot of social media sites like Facebook and Wikipedia use “nofollow” because they want to make sure the content is valuable for users and not just a breeding ground for links. 

Next, don’t move too fast.  I would recommend only adding 5-7 links a week.  Google is wary of you trying to best their system and they want to make sure you’re earning your popularity.  So don’t make rapid changes. 

Paid links are also a big no-no.  Google has lots of tools in place to try to tell if this is happening, so beware of any site that asks you to pay in exchange for a link.


SEO (3 of 4) – Optimizing the Content on Your Page

September 15, 2010

Continuing to highlight the Search Engine Optimization presentation from Alliance Day, we now turn our attention to designing a SEO-friendly web page. Here is an example of a perfectly optimized web page for the keyword “chocolate donuts.” 

Google views certain content on the page as more important based on where you place it.  The items with a higher weight are page title, headings, and URL.  So you want to make sure in particular that your keywords are at this level. 

Page title

It is also sometimes called the title tag.  A HTML tag is a code surrounded by brackets that denotes format, hyperlinks or information for the bot. The page title or title tag shows up in a couple of places.  It is visible at the top of the browser.  It is also the clickable link in the search engine results.  Here it is “Chocolate Donuts |Mary’s Bakery.” It includes the keyword and also lets users know who is selling the donuts. 

Meta Tags

Meta is a type of HTML tag that gives information about the page.  The bot can see this information in the HTML, but the user can’t see it on the page.  Users can see it on the search engine results page below the clickable link.  Here’s what that looks like.  It is not a factor in determining your rankings, but can help persuade users to click on your link versus another one on the first page. 

Headings

It also, includes our keyword “chocolate donuts.”  Google recognizes the HTML tag “H” and then the number, such as H1 or H2 as the heading tag.  This is the one you want to use in the HTML when you build your page. 

Page Text

You’ll notice the keyword is also sprinkled throughout the body content, with a few variations to allow for users variations in the query and for natural writing.  The keyword is also included in the image file name and alt attribute. 

Alt Tag

The alt attribute, or alt tag, specifies alternative text when the element to which it is applied cannot be rendered.  So if an image can’t load in my browser, I will see this text.  It’s not going to provide the same weight as text, but it is how Google can read your images.

SEO (4 of 4) – Promoting Content Off-Page


SEO (2 of 4) – Understanding the End User

September 7, 2010

Continuing to highlight the Search Engine Optimization presentation from Alliance Day, we now talk about understanding the user.  The way the user interacts with a search engine is by inputting keywords.  So it’s important to understand the language customers use to describe their applications and your products and services.

Brainstorm for Keywords

Start by asking yourself or your sales team.  By interacting with your customers, you probably already have a pretty good idea of what words they use to describe what they’re doing or looking for.  

Search the keywords

 Test out what you think people might be using and see what shows up.  Do you see other companies like you or products similar to what you sell?  Use your web analytics tool.  Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of internet data in order to optimize web usage.  This will give you an idea of what keywords people are already searching to get to your site, and it will help you understand how users interact with your content.  Since Google is trying to reward good content, this is a great way to measure what users think of your content.  If you don’t have a web analytics tool, you can get one at www.google.com/analytics

Use Google Keyword Tool

Google offers a great tool that will show you how many times people are searching a word, both locally and globally.  If you are going to build a SEO program, you want to make sure you are building it on keywords that people are actually using.  This is a way to validate that.  Finally, test it out using AdWords.  AdWords are Google’s adverting product on search results.  If you are still concerned that a keyword may not be the right one, AdWords are a fast way to see if users are clicking to see your page and then doing the action you want them to do.  Optimize content for search can take a great deal of time to do correctly, so putting in the investment up front to make sure you are using the right keywords is very important.

Select Your Keywords

Now, it’s time to narrow it down to 1-3 for a page. Think about the long tail of SEO – the distribution of search terms from broad to niche.  There is a greater chance with a broad keyword that you may not have exactly what your user is looking for, but you will get a lot of traffic for this term if you show up in the first three results.  By choosing 2-3 word phrases, you will have less competition and less search volume, meaning you could potentially get less traffic to your site, but it will also convert better, meaning the customers that get to your site are more likely to continue shopping and browsing.  At the bottom of the spectrum are extremely descriptive phrases. These words probably don’t have a lot of competition or search volume, but if someone types that phrase into the box, they are going to see exactly what they’re looking for.

SEO (3 of 4) – Optimizing the Content on Your Page


Search Engine Optimization (Part 1 of 4)

August 31, 2010

In our tour of Alliance Day 2010 presentations, we now focus on the Search Engine Optimization presentation given by Lauren Moler,  who works on the web team at National Instruments.  She discussed SEO, and how you can build a program around search optimization to increase traffic, and thus leads, to your website.

SEO Basics

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of driving more traffic to your site through organic search results. Organic results are not paid for and are found on the center of the Google results page.  As opposed to SEM, which stands for Search Engine Marketing, and is the process of driving traffic to your site through paid results or advertisements.  These results are found on the right or top of the results page.  SEO is typically seen as more credible as it is not paid for, but it can take quite a bit of time to optimize your content for search and start showing up at the top of the results.  SEM, by contrast, is pretty quick.  You can pay for an ad and be showing up the next day when someone types in the word.  Ni.com gets about 15 times more traffic from SEO than we do from SEM.

Step 1 – Understanding How Search Engines Work

Finding Content

Imagine that the web is like the network of stops in a subway station.  If I’m going to see a city, I have to travel the subway line and get off at each stop to look around.  Instead of sending out a person to explore the web, Google sends out a bot.  A bot is a software application used to find your content.  And the best subway line the bot can use on the web is links.  So the bot moves from page to page through links in order to find your content.  This means if you don’t link to a page, Google will never find it.

Index content

Once the bot finds these pages, they have to look at the content  on the page and index it into file which can be recalled when you are searching for a term.  Since Google sends a bot instead of a human to explore your website and read the content, it’s important to think about what the bot sees.  When a Bot goes to ni.com, this is what it sees.  It sees the HTML that is used to build the page.  We saw this great video full of rich content.  All the bot can see is a file path pointing to the video on our server.  The only thing it can use to tell what the video is about is the descriptive text underneath it. 

Return results based on relevancy

The main way that Google determines relevancy to a page is through something called anchor text or link text.  Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink.  Google assumes that this anchor text is descriptive of the page you are linking to.  You want this anchor text to match as closely as possible to the keyword you are trying to optimize. Since it’s a software application and not a bot that’s reading your content, you should make sure the anchor text matches your keywords as closely as possible. 

Rank Based on Importance

Finally, Google ranks the results based on importance.  Google determines importance based on popularity and the quality of your popularity.  At the end of the day Google is trying to reward good content, so it assumes that popular content is deemed good by users.  Google puts more weight on pages with a trusted reputation, such as .govs, .edus, and user-generated content like blogs or forums.   In the search world, this means that if someone links from a .edu to a blog, and that blog links to ni.com, that Google “juice” will flow all the way up to ni.com.

SEO (2 of 4) – Understanding the End User


Five Most Important Marketing Investments (Part 2)

August 24, 2010

This week, we continue to describe  the 5 highest marketing priorities according to TREW Marketing, a full services marketing firm that focuses specifically on engineering and scientific companies, who gave a great session on Alliance Day.

3. Search Engine Marketing

Search engines are most popular tool for engineers and scientists to research a topic. Yet, over half of the Alliance Partners surveyed are unaware of their search engine performance for key terms that describe their products and services. There are basically two approaches to search engine marketing:

  • Natural relevancy – is the search engines own ability to identify and rank the content from your web site. Basically, you are looking for ways to optimize the content on your web site including metatags, page and section titles, even your web address. You can also improve your ranking by having your content linked to from other site (e.g. ni.com).
  • Pay-per-click advertising – again there is a lot of material out there on this topic. It starts by picking good keywords. More likely a combination of key words that narrows the respondents to those that would legitimately be interested in your products and services.

There are entire presentations on this topic (including one given on Alliance Day). I’ll try to summarize the content from that session in an upcoming blog post.

4. Leveraging NI Marketing

National Instrument provides a number of ways for Alliance Partners to marketing their products, systems, and services. Yet, over 70% of those surveyed do not believe that they are taking full advantage of these opportunities.

  • The Alliance Directory – This is the central repository for information about Alliance Partners and their products systems and services. For more information on how to keep it up to date, click here.
  • New Community Tools – At NIWeek, NI announced new tools in our on-line NI Community that greatly enhance Alliance Partners capabilities to promote themselves on ni.com. By creating a ‘group’ for their company, they can add ‘documents’ for their complementary products, systems, services and solutions. Unlike using the current Alliance Directory profiles (which are limited to text descriptions), Alliance Partners can add graphics, videos, pdfs, and examples to enhance their descriptions.
  • NI Campaigns and Product Marketing – Of course, NI has its own marketing campaigns and activities. So, if you can help extend NI’s platforms or demonstrate how their use in customer solutions, then may be interested in highlighting your content. TREW Marketing recommends that you build relationships with the key stakeholders for those business areas. And be ‘marketing-ready’ if NI shows interest.

5. E-newsletters

Last, but not least, TREW Marketing recommends that Alliance Partners use an e-newsletter to nurture leads for the long-term. By staying in regular contact with your customers, you can stay on the top of their minds. And by going electronic, you can drive them back to your web site to leverage existing content as well as measure traffic and response. Similar to design concepts for your web site, your e-newletter should have a clean design, headings that grab your attention, and concise content with links for more information.

Thanks again to our friends at TREW Marketing for sharing their insights. If you would like further information about their presentation or assistance with your own marketing efforts, contact them at trewmarketing.com.


Five Most Important Marketing Investments

August 17, 2010

TREW Marketing, a full services marketing firm that focuses specifically on engineering and scientific companies, gave a great session on Alliance Day sharing straightforward, actionable ideas for Alliance Partners. In preparation for their presentation, TREW Marketing worked with NI to survey Alliance Partners about their marketing activities. From this, they formulated the 5 highest priorities:

1. Your Web Site

Your website is your single most important marketing investment. 80% of Alliance Partners believe that their web site is very to critically important. Yet, over 2/3rd of Alliance Partners believe their web site is weak or even detrimental to their business. TREW Marketing advices you to focus on 3 things:

  • Clean navigation – Make sure that users can easily navigate your site. For instance, don’t clutter your home page with lots of text. Instead, use navigation bars and links to make content easily accessible.
  • Clear, tight content –See more in #2.
  • Engaging visitors – After providing the user with a short explanation, give them the option to download a white paper, article, or datasheet for more information.

2. Content and Collateral

Despite customers interest in technical content and case studies, less than 1/4th of Alliance Partners believe that they provide an adequate breadth and variety of content on their website. Your content should be fresh, engaging, educational and actionable. Specific recommendations included:

  • Quality not quantity – Work hard to keep your content concise. In general headlines should be short and text on a page kept to a paragraph or two.

  • Customer testimonials – Case studies and customer quotes are always effective at building confidence of your prospects.
  • Re-use – Take advantage of content that you are creating for customer proposals, events, …. For instance, make a video of a tradeshow demonstration or a customer application and use it as content on your web site.

I’ll summarize the tips 3-5 from TREW Marketing next week.