Marketing ROI 101: Setting Goals and Calculating Your Marketing Budget

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 Model

It 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.

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.

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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Customer Loyalty = Quality Local Search Results

Customer Loyalty = Quality Local Search Results

Customer Loyalty = Quality Local Search Results

The inbound marketing funnel is a great tool that helps us marketers define where each lead is in the decision making process, and treat them accordingly. Are they ready to buy, are they still not sure what you do, or are they total strangers? Most of these stages get a lot of attention with content offers and resources that help them decide what to purchase, and when. You are hoping to acquire new business, after all, so it makes sense to put a lot of emphasis on these pre-purchase stages of the inbound marketing funnel.

One stage of the inbound marketing funnel we’ve noticed is often neglected, though, is the “Promoter” stage.

This is the stage after a lead becomes a client. They’ve purchased your product, they’re satisfied with your service, so now you’re done with them, right?

Wrong.

It’s actually very important to any inbound marketing strategy that you continue to nurture those customers long after you’ve made a sale. Loyal customers are more willing to purchase from you again, they’re 5 times less expensive to keep around, and most important to this particular blog, they can help boost your local search results ranking.

Loyal customers are important to any business because they help boost local search results, and can influence new potential clients to convert.

Before we get into the “how,” let’s refresh on why we care so much about local search:

Why is Local Search Important?

If your business relies, in any way, on customers you meet face-to-face, then local search is important to you. Think about the last time you looked for a donut shop, a mechanic, or anything else you wanted, like, right now.

Did you search, “delicious donuts near me” or “quality mechanic in my area”? Chances are you did. And the shops and garages that Google gave you as top results were probably the first you looked at.

Local search results are important if you’re looking to drive people in your area to your business.

The higher your local search ranking, the more people in your area will be exposed to you. It doesn’t matter what you do — whether you’re a manufacturer, a home developer, or a commercial construction company — if you do projects in specific locations, then local search results are important to your business.

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve talked about local search results. There are a lot of factors that affect your local search ranking, and we’ve discussed most of them in previous blogs. What we haven’t discussed is how customer loyalty can boost your local search results.

Customer Loyalty = Quality Local Search Results

Loyal customers are the bread and butter of most companies. Even if you’re in an industry like housing development, where people rarely purchase multiple homes, your loyal customers are the ones who can spread the word about what great work you do. There’s a reason HubSpot’s inbound marketing funnel calls them “Promoters.”

Here are just a few ways loyal customers can seriously boost your local search result ranking:

 

Social Media Boosts

As people expand the way they’re using social media, there are more and more opportunities for local brands to boost local visibility. If you’re on Facebook at all, you’ve probably seen people asking for recommendations for photographers, wedding venues, restaurants, etc. in their area. If you have local customers who were really impressed with the work you did, you might just make it on one of those “recommended for your area” lists.

And can we just say that those recommended lists will seriously boost your visibility?

People are more likely to trust recommendations from people they know — it’s essentially a virtual version of word-of-mouth. Combine that with the fact that most of those recommendations see massive engagement from Facebook’s interconnected network of friends and groups, and your customers who use Facebook can do you a lot of good in the local search result department.

 

The Google 3-Pack

Recently, Google cut their local search results display down from 7 top results to just 3. While that caused quite the hubbub, the ultimate goal for most companies with a local presence is the same — to make it into the 3-Pack.

Let’s go back to our donuts example. Say you’re looking for donuts in Grand Haven. Type that into the Google search bar, and this is what you get:

 

local-search-donuts-in-grand-haven

 

You’ll notice that the top three results have an overwhelming number of reviews. While just 31 for one, there are 245 and 446 for the other two. Considering that donuts aren’t all that hard to find in West Michigan, these companies can certainly attribute their placement in the Google 3-Pack, at least in part, to their loyal customers who’ve taken the time to write a really kind review and post it to Google.

The Moral of the Story?

It’s increasingly more important for companies in every industry to follow the inbound marketing cycle through all the way to the end. While it’s great to put out wonderful content for new visitors to your site, and encourage potential leads to convert, you also need to focus adequate attention on your existing customers, because they are one of your greatest assets, and an integral part of your company’s local search performance.

It’s also good to remember that today’s consumers look beyond just Google for local recommendations. If you have loyal customers you know are impressed with your work, remind them that a little shoutout on social media can go a long way.

Finally, don’t forget about those loyal customers. There’s a reason so many successful companies have a newsletter, offer special discounts, and send out promotions to clients who have been loyal — it’s a great way to show your appreciation, and keep those loyal customers around.

In the end, inbound marketing is all about being helpful to anyone who interacts with your company, and always leaving a good impression. If you’re interested in learning more about inbound marketing, and how it can grow your business in 2019, let’s chat!

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What’s the Inbound Marketing Funnel Anyway?

What’s the Inbound Marketing Funnel Anyway?

What’s the Inbound Marketing Funnel Anyway?

Here at Evenbound, we’re always talking about inbound marketing. It’s kind of our thing, so you’ll notice most of our blogs talk about how your inbound marketing strategy can attract more clients, produce more leads, and boost your ROI. What we only occasionally talk about, however, is what exactly the inbound marketing methodology is. While HubSpot used to describe this methodology using the inbound marketing funnel, that’s recently given way to a less-complicated inbound marketing flywheel. 

If you’re new to inbound marketing, or just aren’t quite sure what the terms mean, then this is the blog for you! We’re going to break down the basics of the inbound marketing funnel and compare them to the new inbound marketing flywheel:

What is the Inbound Marketing Funnel

Also known as the inbound marketing methodology or inbound flow chart, the inbound marketing funnel looks like this:

The inbound marketing funnel refers to where a lead is in their process of choosing your company over the competition. If you’re familiar at all with the generic sales funnel, or buyer’s journey, the inbound marketing funnel offers a similar way of looking at things. The inbound marketing funnel labels clients with a different title based on how interested they are in what you have to offer — so you know what types of content to send them, and when. 

  • Strangers – Consumers who don’t know about your brand or your company. 

  • Visitors – Strangers who come to your site and learn a bit about your company

  • Leads – Visitors who have progressed further into your site, and eventually give you their contact information. 

  • Customer – Leads who convert into customers by purchasing your product or service.

  • Promoters – Customers who are delighted by your continued efforts to make sure they have everything they need, and who are so pleased with your company and your service that they love telling their friends and family about you.

While it’s fairly easy to understand these 5 stages of the inbound marketing funnel, especially as they line up with the old, traditional sales funnel, HubSpot has recently transitioned to a flywheel model instead. 

Bear with me for a second, I promise the flywheel is a little less complicated to understand. 

What is the Inbound Marketing Flywheel?

The inbound marketing flywheel offers an easier way to conceptualize how customers feed growth. Instead of thinking of each individual customer making a journey from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel, and then dropping out, the flywheel offers a more holistic look. 

Customers are a driving force for any business, and the flywheel illustrates that. Take a look at what HubSpot has to say about replacing your funnel with a flywheel

Instead of focusing so much on pulling customers through a funnel and forgetting about them, the flywheel puts the focus on customers at all times, relating to them in three different ways: 

  • Attract: Pulling in strangers to your website and brand. This stage is also used to illustrate the process of attracting existing customers with a new content offer, product, upgraded service, etc. 

  • Engage: How you interact with those customers, leads and prospects. Sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time is a great example of how you engage with people in your flywheel to close more deals. 

  • Delight: What you do to keep those customers in your flywheel. Excellent customer service, personalized follow-up and check-in emails, and even rewards programs are great ways to delight your existing customers and turn them into promoters.

To keep your flywheel spinning, you should be attracting, engaging, and delighting all at the same time, rather than just focusing on one small piece of the pipeline. Click To Tweet And when you focus on retaining the customers you’ve already worked so hard to convert, your flywheel spins even faster. 

#1 Attract

Perhaps the most difficult-to-target are strangers. Strangers don’t know you from Adam, which means it’s your job to somehow catch their attention. In today’s oversaturated world, consumers are constantly barraged by advertisements and non-relevant content that makes your job just that much harder.

It’s important to attract key buyers that you know want or need your product or service, and the best ways to do that are:

Social Media Advertising

Social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have super powerful advertising capabilities. When you put out an ad on social media, you can choose exactly who sees that ad, from age to occupation and even to what type of content they “like”.

Basic like campaigns or simple banner ads are cheap, and they’re one of the best ways to get your name out there. That is the point of this stage of the flywheel, after all. 

Since you’re marketing to strangers, the first step is introducing yourself. Your goal for the attract phase is to increase your awareness, which means you need to look for social media advertising campaigns that can get you plenty of impressions. 

Clicks are great, but most people won’t click on your ad until they’ve seen it a few times, or they’ve heard about you somewhere else. For consumers at the stranger level of the inbound marketing funnel or flywheel, focus on ads that cast a wide net, and get your name out there. 

Attract Qualified Visitors with Google Ads

Another paid way to introduce your site and company to strangers is to invest in Google Pay-Per-Click Ads. If you think about it, most people looking for information are going to search Google before they do anything.

From there, they’ll make their decisions based on the results they get. If you’re the first to pop up, even as an ad, that’s a major step to brand recognition, and getting someone to click through to your site. Check out this blog for information on optimizing a PPC campaign, and see this one for more information about what PPC actually is

Attract Organic Traffic with SEO

Another key way of making yourself visible to strangers is ensuring you have impeccable SEO. Search engine optimization is the process of making your website highly visible to search engines. The more search engines like your site, the more likely they are to show it to consumers. 

Improve your SEO, and you’ll improve your online search engine ranking. The higher you show up in rankings, the more eyes you’ll get on your site, which means more strangers turning into visitors. Best of all, SEO is free. No paid ads here!

Improve your SERP Rankings with Blogs

Another key, free way to attract strangers is to start a blog. The more you blog about topics that are relevant to your target buyer, the more of an authority you’ll become in the industry. 

When you’re the company everyone turns to for information about the next big thing in your industry, you’re also the first company they recognize, think of, and then buy from once they get around to making a decision. 

Create blogs that are interesting, relevant, and content rich. Don’t just write listicles every month, try to put out some deep content that answers questions and proves useful for your target buyer.

The more content you have out there, and that’s promoted on your social media platforms, the more consumers you’re speaking to, and the more likely they are to come to your site to see what you have to say. 

#2 Engage

Visitors are strangers who’ve made it to your website. They want to learn a bit about you, and see what it is your company has to offer. Once they make it to your site, your goal is to engage with them. Learn what they’re looking for and what their pain points are, so you can nurture those leads with personalized marketing that provides the solutions they need. 

Here are a few ways to engage with visitors in a meaningful way that keeps them interested in your company:

Content Offers

Content offers are often put on websites in the form of gated content. Gated content is content that requires an email address and name to access it.

It is a key way for any inbound marketing agency to pull potential clients and visitors through to the lead stage of the funnel. Offer up some amazing, in-depth content that you know your key buyer just wouldn’t be able to resist, and simply ask for their email address in return for the downloadable PDF. Once you have their email, that visitor becomes a lead, and you can target them in other ways. 

Today, it’s becoming more popular to leave those content offers ungated. This is a more natural, seamless engagement for your customer. You can still offer up a PDF version of the content in exchange for an email, which means you’re still getting the info you need, but you’re guaranteed a qualified lead when you do get their contact information. 

Remarketing

Engage with visitors outside your website with remarketing campaigns. Extremely effective, these campaigns most often show up on Facebook, Instagram, and Google, and remind visitors they looked at while they were on your website. 

If they added a pair of shoes to their cart, but bailed before making it to checkout, a remarketing campaign will show those shoes on other sites they frequent, like Facebook and Google, and remind them of the purchase they almost made. 

This is a great way to get visitors to come back to your site, where you’ll have another chance to engage with them and further nurture that lead until they’re ready to make a purchasing decision.

In-depth Content

Longer, more in-depth content is a key way to engage with and nurture a lead until they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. Leads in the “engage” phase have a lot of questions. They’re considering the best options to solve their pain points. 

By providing answers to their questions, and by providing as much detail as they can stand, you’re assuring them that your product really is that great, and you’re eliminating any fears of buyer’s remorse they might have. 

Create thorough content that genuinely helps them make a decision and stay away from the b.s. — consumers can smell it from miles away. 

Calls-to-action

If you want someone to make a purchase, you have to make it easy for them. Make it super obvious how a lead or prospect can purchase your product or service with calls-to-action. 

Whether they need to simply checkout, or call your office, or fill out a form, calls-to-action can get them there. These colorful buttons are everywhere these days, and they’re perhaps the best tool to convince a lead to convert. Make it easy for leads to buy or pick up the phone, and they will.

#3 Delight

Finally, after a long journey through the inbound marketing funnel, you’ve converted a lead into a customer. They’ve made a purchase, and now you can wipe your hands of them. 

Not so fast! 

This customer can be useful to you. More than that, who’s to say they won’t buy from you again? Customers who are delighted by your helpful service can become your best promoters. 

They’ll leave 5 star reviews, tell their friends about you, and share all your posts on social media. Be good to those customers, and they’ll be good to you. (It’s way cheaper to retain customers than it is to go out and find a brand new one, too.) Here’s how to help them out. 

Email Marketing

After someone’s made a purchase, don’t just forget about them. Send them emails about add-on products or services they might like now that they have your other offering. If you sell something that pairs really well with that purse they bought, let them know! 

The more customized and tailored your follow-up emails, the more likely they are to purchase again. Another good way to turn your customers into promoters is to ask them for reviews after they’ve received their product. 

A simple “how did you like your socks?” email, with a link to write a review on your site or on Google can go a long way in boosting your reputation, and making it easier for the next consumer to convert to a sale. 

Exclusive, personalized messaging

People love to feel like they’re getting the inside scoop. If you have a newsletter that’s exclusively for people who have purchased an item or service, and if you offer occasional exclusive deals, people will start to talk. The better you take care of those existing customers, the more they’ll tell their friends about you, which will start that inbound funnel all over again. 

The inbound marketing funnel and the inbound marketing flywheel were both designed to make it easy for you to align and optimize your sales and marketing teams. 

If you notice you’re getting plenty of site traffic, but visitors seem to drop off before offering up their email address, start focusing on more valuable content, and maybe consider remarketing. 

The inbound marketing methodology offers an easy, clear way to attract, engage, and delight your leads and customers — keeping your flywheel spinning as quickly as possible. 

We know this is a lot of talk, and it’s not always as simple to implement an inbound marketing strategy as it might seem. If you’re looking to move into pull, inbound marketing methods, but aren’t sure how, let’s chat! A simple one-on-one conversation might answer more questions than you’d think. 

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Professional Photography Sets Home Builders Apart Online

Professional Photography Sets Home Builders Apart Online

Professional Photography Sets Home Builders Apart Online

person-holding-camera

If you want your home building company to stand out online, professional photography is the first step. Your buyers are already online, and as they’re flipping through photos of houses on Zillow and Trulia, you want them to stop on your property. How do you impress them? With awesome, high-quality photos of your amazing work. If you’ve been considering professional photography for your home building company, but just aren’t sure it’s worth the investment, here’s what you need to know:

Why Should your Home Building Company Hire a Professional Photographer?

Professional photography is an absolute must when you’re building out a professional home builder website. Whether your website already exists and you’d like to update, or you’re thinking about getting a website for your company, one thing you definitely shouldn’t skimp on is photography. And really, it makes sense — most people buy a house because of the way it looks. Sure, most people want a home that’s structurally sound, but 9 times out of 10, the real deciding factor is what it looks like. Professional photographers are a must for any home builder looking to drive quality digital traffic, and here’s why:

Draw in More Qualified Buyers

The better your pictures look, the more quickly people will convert. If you’re putting your best foot forward online — on websites like Trulia and Zillow, as well as on your own website — it’s easier for potential buyers to picture what their own lives will look like in your houses, which makes it easier for them to pick up the phone and call.

Highly Shareable on Social Media

Another great benefit of high-quality home photos is they’re highly shareable on social media. People on almost every social media site — from Pinterest to Facebook — love a great photo of a breathtaking home. And if they really like your photo, then they’re likely to share it, which means your home makes it onto more people’s social media feeds. This expands your digital reach, and can help increase the number of qualified leads you have calling in, as it simultaneously expands how many followers you have on social media.

They’re More Attractive

The bottom line is that a high-quality photo is simply more visually attractive than a grainy photo someone took with their smartphone. Consumers love to look at really beautiful homes, and professional photography ensures your homes fit in that category. With professional photography, you ensure your business, and your brand, appear visually attractive and professional across all platforms. This is key for home builders, especially if you’re trying to break into a higher price point. Professional photography can convey the class and elegance you need to represent to attract buyers willing to make a larger investment.

So, it’s pretty clear why professional photography is so great — it positions your company as a professional, high-quality builder who can put out elegant homes — but how do you hire a professional photographer you can trust to convey that vision of elegance?

Hire an Architectural Photographer

First and foremost, it’s important to hire a photographer who has experience with architectural photography. There are tons of photographers out there who have experience doing work for realtors and housing developers, so be sure to choose someone who knows how to do the photography you need. Taking photos of houses is a little bit different than taking family portraits, and an architectural photographer will know just what to do to ensure your staged houses look like someone’s future home.

Investigate Lighting

Before you hire any architectural photographer, be sure to look at the portfolios of some of your top candidates, and pay special attention to the lighting in their sample photos. Does the lighting they’ve used make the homes look larger, or smaller? Does the light seem warm and inviting, or too dark on the edges, and overexposed in the center? Quality lighting is absolutely key in architectural photography.

Many homes are much bigger than the lens can capture, so quality photographers know how to play with the light, and add in additional lighting in places with really high ceilings, so the home doesn’t look smaller than it actually is. Be sure to take a good look at your professional photographer’s portfolio before finally making a hiring decision.

Know Your Rights

The last thing to do before finally hiring your photographer is to know your rights. There are tons of different intellectual property and copyright licenses you can purchase from your photographer, but it’s good to know that most home builders usually don’t need exclusive rights. If you think about it, you’re probably only going to use the photos you have taken for a year or so, until you sell the house you’re advertising.

So, it doesn’t really make sense to purchase all the rights to every photo you have taken (it can also be very expensive). Talk to your photographer about purchasing the temporary rights to the photos he or she takes of your homes. That can be much cheaper, and then you won’t have to keep paying for those photos long after you have a use for them.

High-quality photography is one of the key ways home builders can set themselves apart online. The homes you build are your product, and they’re your best advertising resource as well. If you invest money in making your homes look good, you’ll be investing in your company’s professional image. Best of all, you can share those photos to get people excited about the work you’re doing, and grow your digital following at the same time!

Still not sure where go with your home building company’s digital marketing strategy? Evenbound can help! We often work with custom home builders and home developers to boost online traffic, and increase ROI. Check out the case study below to see how we helped push one senior care residence to the top of the market:

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How to Address Negative Reviews Online

How to Address Negative Reviews Online

How to Address Negative Reviews Online

Testimonials have always been an important source of advertising for home service providers, and most professionals in this field cite referrals and word-of-mouth as major sources of new leads. In the digital era, testimonials haven’t disappeared—they’ve moved online, in the form of online reviews. If you’ve ever looked up a new restaurant on Google, you know how influential reviews can be in deciding whether to eat there and just how catastrophic for business a negative review can be. If you get a negative review of your service online, how can you recover?

Determine Authenticity

The first step is determining the authenticity of the review. There are people out there who will post false, negative reviews, and most places where users can leave reviews, Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc., have means for reporting and removing reviews that are not legitimate. If you can’t get the reviews removed—which is often the case, as it is difficult to impossible to prove, with anonymous usernames and all that, if the reviewers were actually clients or had any experience with your company at all—there are other ways to respond.

Respond Professionally

One way is by posting on your social media about the fake reviews; it’s an experience that others can relate to and can ever be a source of humor, especially if the spammers have awful fake names. Another is by responding to the negative review—in a comment on that review, if possible—politely asking for the reviewer to contact you to clarify and rectify their experience. If the review is fake, the person will never get in touch, but other people reading the reviews will see that you take customer service complaints seriously and will follow up with them.

If the review is real, the first step is seeking to rectify the situation. Respond to the review publicly, as described in the last paragraph, and get in touch with the client directly to ask them how you can make good on the situation. In some cases, if you fix the problem, offer a discount on future services, or offer an apology for the error or poor customer service that compelled them to write the review, the client may choose to delete or amend the review.

What If There’s Nothing I Can Do?

If there’s nothing you can or will do to satisfy this negative reviewer for whatever reason, whether because they can’t be satisfied or the issue was monumental, you’re not doomed to sit in one-star purgatory forever. The thing about reviews is that the more you have, the less each individual one counts in the average, just like with grades in school. If you get a C on the test and it’s the only grade in the class, you’ve got a C in the class; but if you got a C on the test but all your other grades were As, you might make out with an A or B in the class. Same applies to reviews. So, solicit positive reviews from other clients, ones you know are satisfied with your service.

Bad reviews suck, and they can have a negative effect on potential customers, especially now that so many people are researching home service pros online, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all. If you get a negative review, determine its authenticity and respond accordingly by addressing the review itself and bolstering your rating with good reviews.

Online reviews are just one part of a strong online presence and digital strategy for home service providers. If you’re ready to improve your digital presence and marketing efforts, it’s time to talk with Evenbound.

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Topic Clusters: The Future of Content Marketing

Topic Clusters: The Future of Content Marketing

Topic Clusters: The Future of Content Marketing

In case you haven’t noticed, the machines are getting smarter. And while we’re not at Terminator levels of intelligence yet, some of the tools we use to search and market every day have begun to understand search context and speech semantics.  As Google’s search capability improves, search engine users are able to submit queries that are more natural. The average user these days feels totally comfortable asking Google a complete, complex question, because the search engine can now parce semantics, and is able to provide results that answer those questions directly. What does that mean for inbound marketers?

Basically, it means that our content can be more intuitive. As Google continues to make user-focused improvements to their algorithm, their search bots are favoring content that’s written for people over content that’s written to rank well. That means that keyword-stuffed content is definitely out, and it also means repetitive, keyword focused content isn’t going to be as valuable as content that’s genuinely helpful. Search algorithms have reached a point where they can understand what keyword your content is centered around, even if you don’t use that specific keyword anywhere in your blog. This is where topic clusters come in.

What’s a Topic Cluster, and How Can it Help Inbound Marketers?

Topic clusters are a new method of content marketing designed to capitalize on newer consumer search habits. Created and announced by Hubspot—a leading inbound marketing authority—topic clusters work to boost your website’s ranking power, and help your site users reach your content more easily. Topic clusters take note of new search algorithm behaviors, and propose a more effective way of tailoring your content marketing strategy for higher SERP rankings and better readability for search engines and human users.

If your company has a blog, implementing topic clusters can help you improve the authority of your website, as you simultaneously improve the user experience of your blog for your clients. Essentially, topic clusters are dedicated clusters of information that all relate to one central “pillar page.” Let’s use the Evenbound website as an example. We’ve been optimizing our blog to take advantage of topic clusters lately, and at this point, have our blog centered around 7 major topics, or pillar pages:

  • Inbound marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Lead generation
  • PPC and Paid Advertising
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Website Design

If you’re familiar with Evenbound, you’ll know that each of these topics is a service that we provide for our clients. Each one of these topics also has a dedicated top-level page on our website, that answers all of the basic questions a consumer might have about the topic. For us, each of these pages is a separate pillar page, forming the central point for each content cluster. The rest of our blog posts are linked to the pillar page they’re the most relevant to.

 

For example:

Inbound marketing is the pillar page. Cluster content would be any blog that’s related to inbound marketing, but gives our audience more in-depth information about a specific aspect of content marketing. Some cluster content for inbound marketing would include:

  • Content Creation Tools
  • How to Write a Content Calendar
  • An In-Depth Guide to Inbound Marketing
  • Why Blogging is Important
  • How to Shift Your Sales Team from Outbound to Inbound

Each one of these blogs then links back to our pillar page: Inbound Marketing

This method of organizing our content strategy helps search engines catalog our site. Since each cluster topic links back to the pillar page, we boost the authority of that pillar page. This organization strategy also helps search engines better categorize our site. Since each blog that’s related to content marketing links back to the content marketing pillar page, search engine bots can more easily crawl each of those pages, understanding that each blog that links to that pillar page will offer more, in-depth content about the topic of content marketing.

 

Implementing Topic Clusters

The point of topic clusters is to help you rank highly for keywords you have the most authority on. Before topic clusters, you may have chosen a keyword, and then written a number of blogs about that same keyword. While this used to work well in the past, with today’s algorithm, you’ll just end up with a bunch of blogs that are competing with each other for the same keyword. This makes it confusing for search engine bots to decide which of your pages deserves the higher rank, and it doesn’t do much to collectively boost the power of your website. With topic clusters, you can essentially pool all of the authority gained from each of your blog posts and content-rich site pages, for a higher rank overall. But, how do you do it?

 

Start with Pillar Pages

The best place to start building your content clusters is your pillar pages. These are going to be pages that provide a lot of information, but have a very general keyword. Don’t pick a page with a long-tail keyword here, go for something more generic that speaks to your target audience.

For example, one of our pillar pages is Inbound Marketing. The page provides a ton of content, and answers basic questions that anyone would want to know about inbound marketing, like what it is, how it works, and who uses it. If you’re not sure what a pillar page would look like on your website, think about the services you provide. Do you have a page for each of those services, explaining what it is, and how it works? If you’re a home services contractor, you might have separate services pages for roofing, decks, and kitchen renovations. Each of those pages would make a great pillar page to center the rest of your topic clusters around.

 

Brainstorm Cluster Topics

Cluster topics should be related to your pillar page, but should each be focused on a different, more specific topic. If you chose roofing for a pillar page, potential cluster topics might be: “how to fix a leaky roof,” “when it’s time to replace your roof,” or “10 ways to choose the right roof for your home”. These topics are all about roofing residential homes, but they offer your site viewers more information that’s relevant to their everyday questions about roofing.

 

Write, and Link

Once you’ve got some solid topics for your topic clusters, it’s time to write and post that content to your website. Don’t forget to link to your pillar page! The most important part of topic clusters is proper linking, because that’s what tells search engines that a blog is related to your pillar content, and helps ensure that the authority each blog gains is passed onto your pillar page. This is the best way to build your site’s authority, and make sure you’re ranking as highly as possible for the keywords that are most important to your company.

 

Pro Tip: Choose the same anchor text to link to your pillar page in every topic cluster post. For example, when we write subtopics for our Content Marketing pillar page, we always link to that page with the words “Content Marketing.” This helps your readers, and search engine bots, identify where the link will take them, and it can boost your ranking for those keywords.

Reorganizing an Existing Blog

What if you already have a blog, but you want to take advantage of this new, totally helpful, very powerful way of content marketing? Do you need to delete all of your content and start over?

Thankfully, no. But you will have to put a little time and effort into restructuring your content so that it all links together in a logical way. The more straightforward your internal links, the easier it will be for search engine bots to crawl and categorize your site.

Start With One Pillar Page

Decide what just one of your pillar pages will be. Then go through your blog’s existing content, and be sure to link any blogs that are relevant to that pillar page. If you have multiple blogs on the same topic, consider combining them together for one longer, more helpful blog that’s easy to find and offers a wealth of information to your readers. When you’ve made it all the way through your blog by combining similar posts, deleting duplicate information, and linking relevant content to your pillar page, then you can start on another pillar page!

Once you get the hang of it, topic clusters are actually surprisingly easy, and they can do a lot to help you boost your blog and website’s overall ranking power. It’s a new method of content marketing that capitalizes on current consumer search trends, and new search engine categorizing technology. By implementing topic clusters, you’ll be providing your site viewers with an easy-to-navigate content strategy that simultaneously boosts the search engine ranking of each of your pillar pages.

If topic clusters still seem a little intimidating, check out the helpful diagrams provided by Hubspot for a visual explanation of topic clusters, or get in touch with us! Inbound marketing is kind of our thing, so we’re always happy to help if you’ve got questions about your blogging or topic cluster linking strategy. If you’re looking for help with your inbound marketing strategy, see how we helped this company rise to the top with our unique strategy:

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