What is Inbound Sales?

What is Inbound Sales?

As an inbound marketing firm, we’ve explained inbound marketing to death. And for good reason — we’ve seen firsthand the exceptional ROI and growth that a quality inbound marketing strategy can deliver. That said, something we haven’t touched on quite as much, but that’s equally as important is the concept of inbound sales.

Inbound sales functions on the same general methodology of inbound marketing.

 

What is Inbound Sales?

In its best form, inbound sales is the process of solving the pain points of qualified leads who are actively seeking out your company’s product or services. An inbound salesperson’s task is to arm prospects with all the information they need to make an educated, thoughtful decision on what they’ll buy in the end.

Inbound sales professionals offer helpful, personalized service based on each prospect’s unique needs. They adapt their sales process to fit the buyer’s journey, and to solve each prospect’s individual pain points.

What Inbound Sales Is Not:

At its core, inbound sales should always be helpful to your prospects. Click To TweetWhen done properly, your prospects will close because they feel that your product or service truly solves their challenges and because they’ve had a great experience with your company. Inbound sales is not:

  • Pushy cold calls
  • Generic sales pitches
  • Sketchy sales tactics that force prospects to “buy right now, or lose out!”
  • Scheduling a demo whether your prospect is ready for it or not, just to fill a quota
  • Selling to purchased contact lists
  • Anything you would consider to be spammy

Inbound sales aims to be the opposite of all things spammy. Inbound sales is personalized, specific, and focuses on building trust and solving prospect pain points. Click To Tweet

If you’re new to the idea of inbound sales, or you’re exploring how it works, here’s some insight into the methodology:

The Inbound Sales Methodology

The inbound sales methodology functions on the same basic buyer’s journey that inbound marketing bases its actions on. Here’s how HubSpot visualizes the inbound sales buyer’s journey:

hubspot-inbound-sales-methodology

Just like inbound marketing, inbound sales focuses on three key stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and the decision-making stage. Inbound sales actions correspond with each of these stages, just as inbound marketing actions do. If you’re curious about implementing inbound sales tactics to improve conversion rates and overall company growth for your company, here’s how each stage of the inbound sales buyer’s journey works, and what actions you should take during each of the four stages:

#1 Identify

If you’re doing inbound marketing right, your website is getting all kinds of leads every month. The first step in the inbound sales process is identifying which of those leads seem like the best fits for your company. You’ll need to look to see which leads are active in the buying cycle: active leads are downloading your content, interacting with your chatbot, and requesting quotes or demos.

When you’ve identified the leads that seem like the best fit for your company, do your research. Personalization is a cornerstone of the inbound methodology, and it's what makes inbound sales so effective. Click To Tweet The more you know about your prospect’s previous experiences with your company and the pain points they’re looking to solve, the more effective you’ll be as an inbound salesperson.

The identify stage is a good place to implement triggered events technology so you can immediately see which prospects are diving further into your site and available content, and who seem to have an active interest in what you’re offering. The more quickly you can reach out — even while a prospect is actively surfing your site — the more positive response you’re likely to see.

Inbound Sales Actions to Take During the Identify Stage:

  • Identify qualified prospects
  • Define those qualified prospects according to their buyer personas
  • Research prospect companies, and familiarize yourself with your specific prospect’s role in that company.
  • Implement triggered technology to alert you every time a qualified prospect takes an action on your website

#2 Connect

Now that you know a little about your prospect, it’s time to get in touch. Remember that the point of inbound isn’t to push products, but rather to offer assistance. To offer the best assistance, you have to know who you’re talking to.

If you didn’t do it in the Identify stage, now is the time to define your prospect according to your buyer personas. When you understand what persona your prospect fits into, as well as where they are in the buyer’s journey, you can easily determine which content to send that prospect and through which medium.

For example, if a prospect has downloaded a few content offers that speak to awareness-stage concerns, you know that to keep them moving through the buyer’s journey, you’ll need to send them something that’s related to the consideration stage. When you also know that the prospect falls into a younger, millennial-age buyer persona, you’ll know that they’ll respond best to an email or chat message.

Every persona is different — some prefer email, some prefer phone calls, and still others prefer to interface via video or even chatbot. To get the best response rate, you need to know who you’re talking to, so you can decide how best to talk to them.

Inbound Sales Actions to Take During the Connect Stage:

  • Understand the prospect’s place in the buyer’s journey
  • Determine the best content for that prospect
  • Double-check their buyer persona to make sure you connect through the right medium
  • Connect by sending over relevant content, and asking specific questions that speak to that prospect’s challenges, interests, and goals.

#3 Explore

Once you’ve made contact with a prospect, it’s time to explore their goals for working with your company. In most cases, people aren’t motivated to make a change unless something isn’t working well, or they’d like to improve some aspect of their business or personal life. The explore stage is your time to talk through that situation with your prospect.

Start by asking what challenges they’re having. You might even ask what drew them to your product or service in particular. When you have a clear picture of what their challenges are, and how those challenges are keeping their company from reaching their goals, you can offer up information they might be interested in that helps solve some of those challenges.

This is also the time to talk about budget and timeline. Be sure to offer up plans that respect that budget, and that can meet their timeline.

At this point in the buyer’s journey (the consideration stage), your prospect has likely narrowed their options down to two or three companies. Specificity and personalization are what will set you apart.  

Make sure you’re impressing the key points that make your company stand out, in a way that relates to your prospect’s specific challenges. You shouldn’t bad-mouth competitors, but do take time to emphasize the key aspects of your company that put you above the rest, especially if those key aspects go a long way in solving that prospect’s unique challenges.

Inbound Sales Actions to Take During the Explore Stage:

  • Explore any challenges the prospect is experiencing
  • Determine how those challenges affect the prospect’s goals
  • Discuss budget
  • Offer plans and solutions that fit the prospect’s specific challenges and goals.

#4 Advise

Now you know exactly what your prospect needs. Hopefully, you also have a clear picture of how your product is uniquely situated to solve their pain points better than anything else on the market.

At this point, as a salesperson, this is when you want to close. But what you want and what your prospect wants aren’t always the same thing. If they’re ready to buy, they’ll let you know. If they’re not, here’s where you can go.

Start by recapping your history with them. This helps them realize that you’re still hearing them. You’re listening to their challenges and searching for customized solutions that will help them move past those challenges, and towards their goals.

Offer solutions that fit their budget and their timeline. Inbound sales is focused on providing the perfect, personalized solution to every prospect. Hiding costs or agreeing to a timeline you know your team can’t meet doesn’t deliver on that perfect solution. Instead, when your prospect gives you their ideal deadline, work backward to establish when you need a signed contract to be able to meet that deadline.

From there, make sure you’ve talked to all of the key decision makers. If you’re still waiting on a final go-ahead, and you feel like this prospect is really quite promising, ask them what you can do to help them move towards a final decision.

And finally, when in doubt, consult your buyer personas. Those should give you an idea of how much contact you should be making. You don’t want to seem pushy, but you also don’t want to forgo a follow-up if it could make the difference between a win and a loss.

Inbound Sales Actions to Take During the Advise Stage

  • Summarize your history with the prospect. Talk about what you’ve learned about their company, what their challenges are, and how those challenges are holding the company back from achieving their goals.
  • Offer customized solutions. Personalization is at the heart of successful inbound sales. How will your product help this person or this company achieve their unique goals?
  • Confirm budget, contacts, and timeline. When you’re on the same page with your prospect, it’s easier to feel out that perfect time to close.

Implementing Inbound Sales

Implementing inbound sales does ask for a big shift from the traditional, “always be closing” mentality. It’s a new sales methodology, for a new age of consumers. Today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to, demoed, or pushed to make a decision. If instead, you offer them the information they need to make an educated decision and provide your assistance as a trusted advisor, you’re likely to win their business based on the personalized, quality customer service that you’re delivering.

How Inbound Sales Helps You Sell Better

If you’re having trouble imagining how inbound sales tactics can help you sell better, look at it this way: when you use the inbound sales methodology of identifying, connecting, exploring, and advising, you’re spending much less time selling to prospects who are unlikely to convert in the first place.

By first identifying the prospects that are most qualified for your product or service, you’re making your job much easier. You only need to connect with the prospects who make a good fit for what you offer. That saves you a lot of time and effort pitching to prospects who weren’t good fits in the first place. By implementing the inbound sales methodology, you and your sales team can sell more effectively, and with a much better close rate than traditional “always be closing” outbound sales tactics.

Why You Need Inbound Marketing And Inbound Sales

Inbound marketing can get you a long way. Done properly, it delivers serious leads who are highly qualified and motivated to purchase your product. But, if leads have an awesome experience with your company for the entire marketing cycle, and then are immediately hit with old-school pushy sales tactics, you’re going to lose prospects.

Implementing inbound sales is just one of many ways you can help align your marketing and sales teams to provide a seamless, customer-focused experience for your potential clients. The smoother and more enjoyable their buyer’s journey, the more likely they are to buy from and stick with you.

TLDR: What is Inbound Sales, and How Can You Implement it?

Inbound sales is a sales methodology that addressed new consumer purchasing trends by offering quality assistance, information, and personalized solutions over pushy, traditional “always be closing” sales methods.

The best way to implement inbound sales is to look at how you can best help your prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey. From awareness to consideration to the decision-making stage, the more meaningful, personalized assistance you offer, the more likely a prospect is to close with you. For more information on inbound sales, be sure to check out HubSpot’s breakdown of the Inbound Sales Methodology, or get in touch with us, a HubSpot Gold Certified Agency Partner, for hands-on help implementing inbound sales tactics.

Inbound is kind of our thing. If you’re new to any aspect of inbound, from marketing to sales, to HubSpot, we’re happy to help. Schedule time for a chat with John, or check out our Smartass Guide to Inbound Marketing for fun-loving intro that just might teach you something.

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Email Workflow Best Practices that Convert Leads and Close Sales

Email Workflow Best Practices that Convert Leads and Close Sales

Email workflows are an excellent tool for pulling qualified leads through your sales cycle. When you set up an email workflow, you already know who you’re talking to, you have an idea of what they’re looking for, and you have a solution to their greatest pain points. One of the best lead nurturing tools in an inbound marketer’s toolbox, email workflows allow you to speak directly to qualified leads and offer them helpful, relevant content that draws them closer to making a purchasing decision.

Since email workflows are so integral to the digital marketing process, it’s important that your email marketing strategy is rock solid. Too many emails, and you risk alienating customers. Too few emails, and you won’t see any progress on the length of your sales cycle.

We’re going to look at a few key email workflow best practices you should be implementing convert leads and close sales as best possible. But before we do, let’s start with the two most important rules of the email workflow:

The Golden Rule of Email Workflows

The golden rule of email marketing, whether you’re creating a workflow or just sending out an email to your subscribers is this: Don’t be annoying.

Seriously. I know this sounds simple, but it’s more tempting than you’d think. The, “oh, I’ll just send out one more email” feels are real. Try not to give in to them, and for the love of everything, please don’t spam people.

Try to limit your emailing to just two or three emails per contact a week, tops.

 

And if someone unsubscribes, let them. Embrace your inner Shania Twain and remember you’re better of without them. Do not. Repeat. Do Not. Continue to email them.

The only thing that will do is earn you angry people who are definitely no longer customers, and who now have a bad taste in their mouth about your company.

Not sure if you’re emailing too much? Imagine you were receiving all of the emails you are sending. If you’d be frustrated at getting yet another email from a peppy sales rep who doesn’t actually know that much about your company, it’s probably time to lay off.

The Silver Rule of Email Workflows

We’re not sure if “silver rule” is a thing, but if it is, always be offering something, would be it for email workflows.

If you take just one thing away from this blog, it should be to always offer something in every workflow email you send.

Whether it’s a relevant content offer, a chance to meet with a sales rep, or a free trial of your software, every email you send, especially in a workflow, should offer up something that keeps your prospective clients moving through your sales cycle.

For more email marketing no-no’s, check out 8 Bad Email Marketing Habits Killing Your List.

Email Workflow Best Practices

With those two very important rules of email workflows in mind, let’s move on to some of the ultimate email workflow best practices that can help you convert leads and close sales:

Set a Goal for your Workflow

Before can get started developing a workflow, you have to know what your goal for the workflow is. Do you want to:

  • Set up a phone call?
  • Encourage another content offer download?
  • Get a lead started on a free trial?

Every workflow has an end goal. Before you can write your content, and even decide who you’re talking to, you have to have that goal in mind.

Define Your Qualified Lead

Most email workflows are triggered by an action that indicates a site visitor is a qualified lead. You need to define what that action is, and what a qualified lead looks like before you can launch that workflow effectively.

Let’s say the goal of your workflow is to set up a call or meeting with a prospect. Actions that might qualify a lead for this workflow could be:

  • They’ve downloaded multiple content offers that speak to consideration stage questions
  • They’re halfway through their free trial of your product
  • They’ve already talked to your marketing department
  • They’ve visited specific pages of your website multiple times, and for consistent periods of time.

Each of these actions tells you that the lead is already slightly invested in your company. They might like your content, they’re possibly enjoying aspects of your product, and they could even already be familiar with your marketing team. When they’re invested in what you’re offering, and know a little bit about you and your company, they’re a qualified lead. You just have to decide what that looks like. For more help defining your qualified leads, check out this blog on email marketing segmentation.

When you’ve defined what a qualified lead means to you for this specific workflow, you can get to actually writing and building out the email workflow directly for that qualified lead.

Identify Relevant Content

Now you know why you’re writing an email workflow, and you know who to write your workflow to. Let’s figure out what you’ll write about.

A traditional email workflow is about three emails long. You can always make them longer if you need, and if a lead converts right away, the workflow will bail on them.

I find that the easiest way to start writing an email workflow is to work backward. Look first at what you’re offering in each email before you start writing the content. (You are offering the lead something in every email, right? If not, see above for the Silver Rule of Email Workflows.)

For example, you know that your last email is going to offer up your schedule for your lead to set up a time to chat. The content of that email should lead up to that last call-to-action, and could look something like this:

Hi John,

I hope you’ve found our Complete Guide to Opening Coconuts helpful! If you have any questions about the guide please don’t hesitate to reach out.

I know you’ve had a great deal of interest in coconut cracking lately, and I think our Extreme Coconut Machete might make the perfect tool to help improve efficiency at your coconut water bar. Would you like to learn a little more about it?

To set up a time for a brief chat with me, please feel free to add a meeting to my schedule.

I look forward to connecting with you soon!

 

All the best,

Toucan Sam
VP of Sales
EZ-Open Coconuts, Inc

Every aspect of this email is leading up to that final call-to-action. Let’s take a closer look at how this workflow is working specifically to convert that lead.

Keep Emails Short & Include Questions

The above email from Toucan Sam is an excellent example of a workflow that is short and to the point, but that still entices a lead to continue moving through the sales cycle.

The email opened with a line that reminded the prospect why Sam was emailing.

Then, it offered a bit of helpful information that was specific to the prospect. John has a coconut water bar, and Sam’s product could help him improve his business’ efficiency.

In just two lines it’s immediately clear why Sam’s product would be helpful to John, and how he can learn more about it. Including a link to a calendar is especially useful, because the prospect can easily schedule a time to meet that is convenient for both parties. Click To Tweet

It’s important to keep workflow emails short — definitely no longer than a page, but preferably no more than a few very short, one to two sentence paragraphs.

Remember: Design Counts

It’s also good to think about the design of your workflow emails.

They should be relatively minimalistic — you don’t want too many pictures or too much information distracting your prospect from the message — but they should include basic things like your logo and possibly your social media buttons.

The email should be clean and clearly laid out so the prospect can scan through quickly, without missing too much of your message. Put the most important messaging at the very beginning and very end of the email, where people are sure to see it. Bolding and bullet-pointing key callouts can also help draw attention to the content you want prospects to see most.

Personalize Email Workflows — Both To and From

A great email workflow best practice to remember is not only to personalize emails for the receiver but also from you. Users are more likely to at least open an email if it looks like it's from a real person, rather than from a company. Click To Tweet And getting prospects to open your email is half the battle!

It is also good to personalize emails for the recipient, as well. Most email workflow services, like HubSpot or MailChimp, will auto-fill names and company names, along with a bit of other information for you. It’s a simple step that can make a big difference, so don’t forget!

Send Test Emails

Always, always, send test emails. And open them. And click all of the links.

You’d be amazed at how easy it is to forget to add in a link or to accidentally link to the wrong page.

You’ve spent a lot of time finessing your email, and you only get one shot to send it out. Make sure everything works the way it should before you hit that send button.

Send First Workflow Email Within 24 Hours of Qualifying Action

Set your workflows to go out as soon as possible after a lead completes a qualifying action. If they sign up for your newsletter, make sure your follow-up email goes out as immediately as possible.

If your sales team is working to follow-up after potential clients download a specific offer, try to have that first workflow email go out within an hour of their download. That way, your company is still fresh on the prospect’s mind and they’re more likely to respond.  

Give People Time Between Emails

You want your first email to go out quickly, but that’s it. The other emails should take a little bit of time, in respect for the Golden Rule (see the top of this blog if you’re skimming). Don’t send any more than one email in a 24 hour period. And if you can wait a day or two between emails, that’s even better.

Every industry and every company will see different results from different tactics, so you will have to do a bit of testing to see how often and how quickly to send your follow-up emails for best results.

That said, a good rule of thumb is the less spammy, the better. You want to remain top-of-mind, but not at the expense of your lead’s experience with your company.

Make It Easy to Unsubscribe

As we mentioned in the Golden Rule at the very top of this blog, your goal with an email workflow is not to trap an unwitting consumer. Rather, you’re working to offer up relevant, helpful content that solves their pain points, and shows them of your authority in your industry. If they don’t want your help, you have to allow them to unsubscribe.

Not only is this ethical, but it’s better for you. If you have a bunch of dud leads who qualified accidentally, or who aren’t quite ready for your services, it’s better to let them go than have them skew your email metrics to show that your messages aren’t performing.

All of that goes to say — make it easy to unsubscribe.

You don’t want to waste your time on unqualified prospects, and they don’t want to hear what you have to say. Let them go.

Don’t Use Attachments

This last point is truly an email workflow best practice: don’t attach content to your workflow emails. Nearly every company tells employees not to open emails with attachments from strangers, for the very real reason that it could be a hacker or a virus. When you attach your content offers and additional relevant content to emails before someone has asked for it, you seem fishy. (Phishy? See what we did there? 😉)

Instead, offer links to a landing page where prospects can download your content offers or digital links to content offer PDFs. This will help increase your open rate, and likely your response rate, too. You always want to be offering something, in every workflow email, but it has to seem legit if you want people to open it.

Whew. That was a lot.

There’s a lot going on with email workflows. They seem like such simple pieces of content, but there’s a great deal of work that goes into them, from deciding what you’ll offer to crafting a series of emails that will work to pull your ideal prospects all the way through the sales cycle. Hopefully, these email workflow best practices will help you put together a workflow that converts leads and closes sales.

Still struggling with your email workflows? We get it. Let us know how we can help!

From cleaning up your contacts to developing workflow content that speaks directly to your target audience we’re email workflow pros and we’d love to help you beef up your email marketing strategy for overall business growth.

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Anatomy of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

Anatomy of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

If you’ve ever used the internet, you’ve seen a SERP.

SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are the pages that return a list of web pages in response to a query you enter into the search engine. You’ve seen them on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and even Ask Jeeves, if you’ve been on the internet for a while.

For the most part, we as consumers don’t give SERPs a second thought. They return the answers and the web pages we’re looking for — so we get on with our day. But as digital marketers, SERPs play a huge role in everything we do.

We need to know how SERPs work, so we can optimize our strategies to get on the first page as much a possible. So, whether you’re new to digital marketing, or are looking for some insight about ranking highly on SERPs, this blog will offer a complete breakdown of the anatomy of a SERP. We’ll tell you what everything is, how it got there, and what that means for you as a marketer. Let’s get started with a basic query anyone might type in:

Let’s say you entered “how to open a coconut” in Google’s search bar.

You’ll end up with a page like this after you hit the enter button. This is your SERP.

serp-how to open a coconut

It’s a list of results a search engine has pulled together to offer you the best possible answer to your question. Let’s look a little closer at this particular page because it’s returned some interesting results.

The first thing you see on this SERP is the “snippet” Google has published at the very top of the page.

What is a Snippet?

A snippet is a piece of content that a search engine pulls off of a webpage in an attempt to answer the user’s query immediately.

Usually, a snippet comes from one of the first page SERP results. Let’s take a closer look at this snippet:serp-snippet-how-to-open-coconut

This is an example of excellent SEO at work. Food Network is obviously a huge platform with tons of ranking authority, but they’ve done a good job of optimizing for this specific query by titling their page “how to break down a coconut.”

Google recognizes that this page title is very similar to my query, and thus returns Food Network’s short, one paragraph answer in a snippet.

This is a big win for Food Network. A first-page ranking and a snippet callout will drive major traffic to their site, especially for a common search query like this one. (This specific query is searched about 14,800 times a month.)serp-search-results-number

Suggested Queries, or “People Also Ask”

Next up on the SERP, you’ll see Google’s suggested queries based on the one you just entered. If you’re not seeing the answers you wanted, you can choose one of those other questions, and the dropdown will offer up a different snippet.serp-people-also-ask

These “people also ask” suggested query snippets are great places to get ideas for blog posts that will rank well, and they’re a wonderful place to rank. For example, HealthfulPursuit took advantage of the key phrase “opening a coconut in 7 simple steps.”

They rank highly for that specific key phrase, and since it’s a very targeted phrase — telling people how to open a coconut, step by step — they’re going to see qualified traffic. Any consumer who didn’t find enough information in the first snippet Google provided can scroll a little further down the page to find a perfect breakdown about opening a coconut.

Finally, you’ll see the rest of the results on the SERP. All of the videos and the suggested web pages displayed are organic results for this query.

You might notice something odd about this SERP. Can you guess what it is?

There aren’t any ads.

Why?

It’s likely that “how to open a coconut” is just too general a search term for any company to spend money on. It doesn’t signal any buyer intent and actually shows that the consumer probably already has a coconut. They just need help opening it. There’s little incentive for anyone to buy anything here unless you had a coconut-specific machete company, I guess.

Let’s look at the SERP for my query, “where to buy a coconut,” instead.

serp-where-to-buy-coconutThis is a search query with significantly more intent. I searched “where to buy a coconut”, which signals to Google that I might be interested in actually buying a coconut. So, this SERP looks much different than the previous query.

I’ve only included the top part of the first page on purpose, to call out: 1) the ads, and 2) the local search results.

Search Engine Ads

We’ve all seen Google Ads before. It’s not really a revelation, but it is important to see how ads show up in SERPs if you’re considering making paid advertising a part of your outbound marketing strategy.

The ads shown on this page are all display ads — they display an image of a product, and link over to the site where you can purchase the product. Advertisers have to pay to get this placement, but Google also plays a part by selecting only the ads it thinks are most relevant to this query to display. Click To Tweet

Why do you care?

Because this a perfect example of how search engine advertising works, and how you can do it well. Google Ads appear at the top of SERPs and display the products most relevant to the user’s query.

If you want to have ads that appear first on relevant pages like this, it’s important to consider the users’ intent when bidding on keywords, and make sure that every phrase you bid on is relevant to what you’re offering.

Local Search

The last component of SERPs I’m going to talk about today is local search. Though local search results do appear under ads, they tend to get the most clicks, no matter what.

They’re specifically relevant to each unique user. When I searched “where to buy coconuts” Google offered me results that were close to my immediate proximity.

It's important to remember that SERPs do a lot more than just find you the best answer to your question. They also try to populate results that are specific to you personally. Click To Tweet That means that every time someone searches “where to buy coconuts”, the results will be different based on their specific location.

This is important for you if you have a brick and mortar business that encourages foot traffic.

If you do, you should make sure you’ve claimed your business on search engines, and work hard to boost your website’s SEO so that you’re ranking well for local search results like these. The more Google associates you with your location, the more you’ll show up organically for relevant searches in your area. (Want to know more about local search? We got you.)

SERPs are an integral component of any digital marketing strategy. You need to know how they work, so you can leverage them for the best traffic, whether it’s from paid or organic search results. We hope this little guide gives you a bit more insight into the anatomy of a SERP. If you’ve still got questions, we’re here to help!

Leave us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. And if you’re looking for more digital marketing support, just let us know. We’d love to offer any advice or guidance you need to grow your business and your brand.

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What Makes A Good Website? [Hint: It’s Not Design]

What Makes A Good Website? [Hint: It’s Not Design]

Before we get started, I promise we’re not throwing shade. We love designers, and we know that a beautiful website goes a long way to establishing authority and building trust in any business. That said, what makes a good website is not design.

What makes a good website is functionality.

When it comes to digital marketing (which is what you’re doing if you’re building a website) your website is a tool. It matters that it looks good, but what’s more important is that it functions as a tool — driving new traffic and leads to your company, and helping your sales and marketing teams close new deals.

So, if your website is a digital market tool, then what makes a good website? Here are a few of the key components that add up to a quality website that will work for you, even when you’re off the clock:

Quality CMS

If you learn only one thing from this blog, please let it be this: DO NOT have a developer custom-build you a website from the ground up.

Yes, they can do it. And yes, it might be a wonderful website.

It will never compete with the searchability and support that a more traditional CMS (Content Management System) can offer.

unmaintainable-codeA developer might be able to design you a fantastic custom website. The problem is that if it’s custom-built, and doesn’t make use of a convenient, sustainable CMS, when that developer leaves for a new job, retires, or wins the lottery, it will be very difficult to change or update your website. With a custom-built site, only the developer will know how the site works, is built, and how changes can be made, which means your site is now effectively dead in the water.

Beyond that, CMSs offer some very attractive benefits, like SEO ranking power, immediate translation, security, and more.

Let’s back up for one second — what is a CMS?

A CMS or content management system is an application that allows you to publish and manage content on the web.

You’ve heard of WordPress? What about Joomla or Drupal?

All are very famous CMS platforms. We use WordPress, for a lot of key reasons.

You don’t have to choose WordPress, but you should use a reputable CMS to build and manage your website. Why?

A CMS supports a variety of website templates, it should include intuitive publishing and content management options, it allows you to easily format your website content however you please, and it’s customizable. Essentially, it’s the first building block of a quality website. It’s the foundation that your excellent website will be built on, which is why you need to choose a quality one to start with.

We cannot stress enough the importance of using a quality CMS to support your website. Click To Tweet

A CMS helps you keep your website secure, and it makes it sustainable. Choosing a reputable CMS is investing in the future of your website. The CMS will always be there, and it will always be simple to update, change, and alter as your business grows and changes too.

Mobile Responsive and Quick Load Time

Your website has to keep up. If users have to wait for your site to load, or if they can’t view it on their phones while they’re in line at the sandwich shop, you don’t have a good website.

Start by choosing a website theme that’s mobile responsive. Mobile traffic makes up more than half of all the internet traffic around the world. Believe us when we say it’s important.

If your website automatically resizes to fit any screen, seamlessly, you never lose a potential client for something as silly as, “I couldn’t read your site.”

this-is-your-customer-on-slow-load-time

In the same vein, your website has to load quickly. More than 50% of web browsers will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load the landing page. That means, no matter how beautiful your website is, if your consumer can’t see it in 3 seconds or less, they’ll never see it.

It’s easier than you’d think to improve load time. One simple solution is to just minimize image sizes on your site. We use a plugin called Smush to optimize and compress all of the images on our site, ensuring that our site both looks good and loads quickly too.

Blogging Capability

We’ve gotten through most of the technical aspects of what makes a good website. For all intents and purposes, the thing is built. But now you have to get people to come to your website. Blogging is the first, easiest way to do that.

Any good website should have blogging capability. When you can publish blogs to your website, you can create a steady stream of content to draw new traffic in. A blog is important for a number of reasons:

  • Regular posts help you rank for strategic keywords
  • You can share your content on social media platforms, engaging more potential leads
  • Blog posts help you teach and delight new leads with quality, relevant content that draws them through the buyer’s funnel.

The more regularly you blog, and the more regularly you share those blogs, the more traffic your site will see. Click To Tweet The more traffic your site has, the greater its opportunity to live up to its potential as a digital marketing tool for your company.

When your site is seeing regular, qualified traffic, you can convert that traffic with great content offers and landing pages, collecting contact information and helping your sales and marketing teams close new deals. That all starts with your website’s blogging capability.

SEO-Friendly

So, we’re making a good website that functions as a tool to convert leads and close deals, right? Right.

Well, SEO, or search engine optimization, is a key factor for any good website’s functionality.

Search engine optimization is the process of, well, optimizing, your website to attract the right attention from search engines like Google. When Google knows your site exists, then it will share you with potential leads who have a relevant interest in what you’re selling.

A website that is SEO-friendly has:

  • Content that’s written for target keywords. (You should do some keyword research to figure out what those keywords are first)
  • On-page SEO, like site titles, title tags, social media sharing buttons, and more.
  • Relevant, keyword-optimized alt tags.

This is a very paired-down explanation of SEO, so if you want to know more about how to actually optimize your site, head here.

The point, for the purpose of this blog, is that SEO is another way to make sure your site is getting plenty of the right traffic. The more optimized your site, the more likely you are to see high-converting traffic that cares about what you have to say.

A Digital Marketing Platform

In the end, a good website is one that functions as your company’s digital marketing platform. It should be the hub for any digital marketing effort you make:

  • Digital ads should lead back to a landing page on your website
  • Social media posts encourage followers to check out your blog
  • SEO efforts bring new, qualified traffic into your website
  • Your blog converts new visitors into leads
  • Content offers convert those leads into sales opportunities

And that’s why we say that what makes a good website isn’t design, it’s functionality. While a great website will also feature quality design, what your website looks like shouldn't be your top priority. Click To TweetInstead, focus on how your website can help your company close more deals, and grow overall. If it can do that, then you know you’ve made a good website.

And if you’re looking for a little help building a website that delivers leads? Get in touch with the Evenbound team! We live and breathe website design for inbound marketing, and we’d be happy to offer up a few pointers to help you improve your site for better performance.

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Marketing ROI 101: Setting Goals and Calculating Your Marketing Budget

Marketing ROI 101: Setting Goals and Calculating Your Marketing Budget

If you’re like any other marketing department we’ve ever talked to, your boss wants to know exactly how much your efforts are contributing to the company’s overall sales. You probably also know that proving that number isn’t as easy or as straightforward as you’d like.

Too often, companies put pressure on the marketing department to track every single outbound marketing dollar spent to a lead generated or a sale closed. And because marketing does things like create brand awareness and foster positive relationships, that can be difficult to quantify. That’s why we use an ROI Model to calculate the budget and ROI of the marketing campaigns we create.

When you take a good hard look at your marketing investment as a whole, and you have clear goals for your marketing department, it’s actually not impossible to calculate your marketing ROI. And we’re going to show you how to do it, using an ROI Model. First, definitions!

What is Marketing ROI?

All spelled out, Marketing ROI stands for Marketing Return on Investment. That is, how much money you make off of your marketing campaigns, minus how much those marketing campaigns cost you. Check out an in-depth definition of ROI in this Digital Marketing Glossary.

What is an ROI Model?

If you want the textbook answer, “a Return on Investment Model is a comprehensive, customizable model that allows you to input your project assumptions and quickly understand potential returns.”

In English, an ROI Model is a method of calculating not only how much you need to spend to generate a certain amount of income, but also how much traffic, how many qualified leads, and how many sales you need to close on each month to reach that goal.

Your marketing ROI Model is a simple, 4-bullet point statement that outlines your company’s business goals, while also outlining specific goals for each your sales and marketing teams.

Your marketing ROI Model shows everyone exactly how your sales and marketing teams are going to complete your company’s overall growth goal. It clarifies expectation for both teams and helps you calculate exactly how much you need to spend on your marketing budget to achieve your projected goals.

Your superiors want to get the word out about your company, but they also want specific, measurable reports about how your marketing efforts are contributing to the bottom line. We get that.

This ROI Model will help you figure it out. It’s what we use to help our clients measure ROI and determine a marketing budget that can deliver legitimate growth. This is how it works, in 4 simple steps.  

Step 1: Know Your Customer Lifetime Value and the Value of New Sales

How much does the average new client deliver your company in sales? 

This number is important because you can use it to figure out how much you’re spending to market to that person, relative to how much you’re making on them. That’s your marketing ROI right there. So, before you go any further, figure out on average how much revenue you make from a new client. Then figure out how much you make in the lifetime of your relationship with a customer.

When you know how much revenue you generate from each client, you can figure out a reasonable amount to spend on your marketing budget.

Step 2: Set Your Goals

Goal setting is the first step to actually developing a solid marketing budget. And when we talk about goal setting, we’re talking about the whole company.

What are your company’s goals for the next year? Do you want to grow by 10%? Do you want to close a certain number of leads each month?

It’s important to set these goals and make sure everyone in your company understands them. This way, everyone can work toward this singular goal, together. With an overarching company goal set, the rest of your sales and marketing team goals will fall into place.

Step 3: Use A Digital Marketing ROI Model

Alright. Now you know how much a new client makes you, and how much you need to make in the next year or month. Let’s get to the Digital Marketing ROI Model.

Ours functions like a funnel, starting with the traffic your site sees per month and moving down from there to determine the number of closed sales you need to reach your monthly revenue goal. Let’s use an example to help clarify this.

Acme Corp is a manufacturer of anvils, rockets, explosives, and magnets. Last year, Acme Corp made 22 million dollars, which was flat from the year before. Let’s take a look at the ROI model we’d use to calculate the best marketing budget for their goals.

First, we need to know what their goals are, and how much revenue a sale brings to their company:

Goals: Acme Corp wants to grow their company by 5-10% this year.

Value of a New Sale: $25,000

Average Customer Value: $200,000

With this information, we can figure out how much income Acme Corp needs to generate each month to reach that 5-10% growth goal. From there, we can work backward to determine exactly how much site traffic we need to drive to achieve that goal.

Given Acme Corp’s goals, we’ve determined that they need to generate $375,000 in new revenue a month.

With an average new client sale price of $25,000, that means they need to close on 15 new sales each month.

Now, Acme Corp has a strong sales team, who works to close on an average of 5% of their marketing qualified leads. If Acme Corp closes on 5% of their qualified leads a month, they need 300 leads to reach that 15 sales per month goal.

Let’s work back one more step to figure out how much traffic Acme Corp needs to bring in 300 leads per month.

They have an average traffic conversion rate of 3%.

That means they need to bring in 10,000 site visitors per month. Believe it or not, we’ve just figured out Acme Corp’s entire Marketing ROI Model. Here’s what it looks like all condensed into 4 simple bullets.Acme Corp ROI ModelIt might be only 4 bullet points, but it’s still a lot of info. We’ve just built out Acme Corp’s ROI Model to grow their business by 5-10% in the next year. This ROI model accounts not only for their marketing budget but also for their monthly marketing and sales goals.

The Acme Corp marketing team needs to bring in 10,000 visitors per month, and they need to convert 3% of those visitors into qualified leads.

The sales team is responsible for converting 5% of those leads into sales, to ultimately deliver on Acme Corp’s growth goal of 15 new sales or $375,000 in new revenue per month.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the purpose of this blog, Acme Corp is spending just 5% of their total gross income from new sales on marketing. That adds up to $18,750 per month or $225,000 a year.

To some, that might sound like a lot. It’s important to know that this is a fairly conservative marketing budget estimate.

Many companies, especially those with aggressive marketing campaigns dedicated to increasing brand awareness, spend anywhere between 12 and 20 percent of gross revenue on marketing efforts. Even a standard marketing budget for a company that's well placed in its market tends to spend between 6 and 12 percent of gross revenue on marketing. Click To Tweet

In the grand scheme of things, 5% isn’t actually all that much to spend on your marketing budget, but that’s where your marketing strategy comes in, bringing us to the very last step:

Step 4: Invest Your Marketing Budget Wisely

You’ve completed your Marketing ROI Model. You know how much traffic you need to pull in, and how many leads you need to convert to meet your growth goal, and you know exactly how much you want to spend to do it.

It’s important to remember that while this ROI model can give you a good picture of how much you should be spending to get the right results, you have to be investing in the right marketing tactics to see actual results.

Where you allocate your marketing budget is what will make or break your ROI Model. Your marketing and sales teams have their goals, but if they don’t have the tools and training necessary to meet those goals, you won’t see your ROI Model realized, and you’ll probably end up spending more than the budget you allocated to reach your growth goal.

If you don’t have landing pages, are working with a website from 1995, or aren’t strategically targeting your paid advertising campaigns, you’re probably not going to see the results you want from what you’re spending on marketing.

That’s where the inbound marketing methodology and things like keyword research, buyer personas, and content calendars come in.

If you've calculated your marketing budget carefully using an ROI model like the one above, but aren't seeing the results you planned for, there's probably a breakdown in your marketing strategy somewhere. Click To TweetTalking to a professional can help.

We hope this blog helps your sales and marketing teams align to reach your company’s growth goals, and gives you a good starting spot for determining a realistic marketing budget.

Marketing ROI, marketing budgets, and especially inbound marketing strategies are kind of our jam, so if you have any questions about anything we covered in this blog, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

And if you want to grow your company by 20% in the next year, we can help. Growth marketing is kind of our thing, so if you’re interested, let’s chat.

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