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The Five Must-Have Elements of Revenue-Producing Content

Posted by Fiona Taylor

Apr 19, 2018 4:00:00 PM

 revenue-producing-contentA good rule of thumb for a blog post is to always lead with an introduction. So, while this may not be the kind of introduction you were expecting, I’m Fiona, Imagine’s new Director of Content. I’m thrilled to be here! Since I’ll be sharing my thoughts on content from time to time, here’s a little of background: I’m a writer and editor with extensive experience developing content and marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies. On that note, let’s kick off my first bog post by talking about what makes content great!

We’re all barraged with content every day. If you’re like me, you have twenty browser tabs open because you truly intend to read all those articles and blog posts. You know, the ones that promise to make you a giant in your field. The problem is, there’s just so much noise.

There’s content constantly coming in from every direction—via email, social media, and the interwebz. 

This means you have to have some mental filtering system in place. Your time is limited and precious, so you need to know that you’re not wasting it by reading a piece that over-promises and under-delivers. You can only choose content that you reasonably believe will make your life better.

Which brings us to the question….

How do you make someone read your content?

As we all probably already know, engaging content results in reads and shares. It builds a relationship. It offers the reader something of value, which creates trust and increases your credibility. All of this moves a potential customer further down the path to purchase – moving them from indifference to emotional engagement.

So how does this mysterious and magical process happen? Every piece of content is different, but you can’t go wrong if you incorporate the following five elements:

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content

What it Means to Be Inbound

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Mar 28, 2018 2:00:00 PM

be-inboundI was talking with Meghan Anderson, VP Marketing for HubSpot, about how much has changed (and how much hasn’t) over the last 10+ years since HubSpot brought us the Inbound Marketing Revolution (okay, a little blog hyperbole).

At a recent Inbound conference, Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s CEO, shared what led to the entire idea that became HubSpot. He shared that while their product was designed to enable marketers, the idea didn’t spring from focusing on the problems that marketers had.

Instead, they focused on the problems that the targets of marketers - people - had. In that exploration, they realized that things were fundamentally changing and the buyer was seizing control of their own buyer’s journey and experience. This discovery led to what Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Brian’s co-founder, called Inbound Marketing.

In the last decade, Inbound Marketing has completed a full lifecycle. Starting as novel curiosity that only a few on the vanguard even knew about (let alone implemented), to hype that everyone talked about. Which then lead to “The Next Big Thing” through must-have status, followed by line extensions (Inbound Sales anyone?), finishing off the cycle with claims like “inbound marketing doesn’t work anymore” and “no forms.”

This fond remembrance of the birth, growth and exploitation led us to talk about what Inbound Marketing means today. My response is what led to this blog post. I replied, “Meghan, you know, to me Inbound was always more to me than inbound marketing or inbound sales were. To me, Inbound was and still is a philosophy.”

Inbound represented - and still represents - a mindset, beliefs and principles far more than any series of tactics or processes. Being Inbound is to acknowledge that the customer controls the game today and businesses need to rise to meet the demands and expectations. While the tactics (and technology) are changing at an increasingly rapid pace, Inbound, The Philosophy is as relevant today as it ever was.

Meghan then challenged me. She asked, “Doug, I love where you’re going with this. But (have you ever noticed there’s always a “but”), if it’s a philosophy how do you define it? How does it have permanence, rather than merely becoming a trite idea like create value?”

This is my answer.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing

4 Resources to Get 2018 off to an Explosive Start

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Dec 20, 2017 2:00:00 PM

explosive-start.jpgI simply cannot believe how fast 2017 has flown by. Here at Imagine, we’re in the final days of getting things wrapped up so we’re ready to take our annual “week of rejuivation”. We have big plans for 2018 and some exciting announcements we’ll be sharing as soon as we’re back at the beginning of the new year.

Of course, even while I’m off and spending time with family and friends, there will be a part of me thinking and reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned in 2017, my plans and objective for 2018 and figuring out how to get out of the gate fast. I’ve always found that if I can make January and February strong, the rest of the year typically takes care of itself.

Over the years, we’ve developed a number of resources focused on the idea of getting initiatives off to a strong and fast start. For those of you still looking for ideas, insights and inspirations to launch next year, here are some of the best ones we’ve created.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Sales Development, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Training/Coaching

5 Essential Components of a High Sales Growth Tech Stack

Posted by Ellen Welker

Dec 7, 2017 4:00:13 PM

tech-stack.jpgThe game is getting real folks. Every day it seems a new challenge is emerging that makes the traditional growth playbook ineffective. Several weeks ago I shared the results of a deep analysis we completed that focuses on how the very best growth companies build their demand generation program. In The Five Levels of Demand Generation, one of our central observations was the growing role of technology. While companies at all levels are using more technology, the difference between the best and the average was in how they used, integrated and aligned technology in their approach to growth.

Recent research from CEB highlights that companies are spending, on average, almost $5,000 per sales rep more on technology today than they did two years ago. Despite that investment, the results companies are seeing decreases in the results they're seeking. This frustrating conundrum is a great description of where growth-focused companies find themselves when managing the technology landscape.

Sales and marketing technology is no longer optional. Today, it's a ticket to play in the game. As we regularly advise our clients, technology will never be the reason your sales growth strategy succeeds, but it will increasingly be a reason that it fails. Three years ago I would regularly ask, "Is the issue we're trying to solve a people problem or a process problem?" Today, the dominant question is, "Is this a people, process or technology problem?"  

It is for this reason that you must pay attention to the technology you're using and how you're using it, and regularly consider how you can or should use technology in the future. "The Tech Stack" is a term and conversation that needs ongoing attention to ensure a strong competitive foundation.

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Topics: Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Sales Development, Performance, Technology Stack

How We Revitalized Our Email Strategy & Turned It Into An Advantage

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Dec 4, 2017 5:00:00 PM

How We Revitalized Our Email Strategy & Turned It Into An AdvantageEmail is (still) a critical linchpin for sellers and marketers alike. Even as social media, chat and private communication networks (like Slack) proliferate, email is still at the center of communication today.

Don’t believe me? Consider (sources, Content Marketing Institute & Optinmonster):

  • 77% of B2B marketers use email in the marketing mix  
  • 91% rate email as a key piece of content marketing success
  • 2.7 billion people use email
  • 91% of users use email at least daily
  • You're 7x more likely to originate a customer via email than other channels
  • 58% of users cite it as the first channel they go to every day

Successful Email Strategy is Harder than it Looks

When I talk with prospects about their sales, marketing and communication programs, there’s a lot of variance regarding the primary tools they use. The one thing they all have in common is the use of email.

Despite the ubiquity surrounding email communications, very little time is spent developing and executing a robust email strategy. I’m convinced that the reason this is true is because email feels easy and inexpensive. It’s just so easy to think that sending “one” bad/ineffective email is no big deal, we’ll just make it up on the next one. Then one becomes two; two becomes 12, and so on.

The reality is that email is one of the most expensive channels in the marketer's and salesperson’s communication toolkit. While sending an email doesn’t cause an immediate, direct cost, what happens after that is significant.

Six-months ago we sat down to completely re-imagine our entire approach to email. Recently, that method (and the results it’s gained) was featured as a case study by HubSpot. Since the case study was published, I’ve been asked several times how we did it. This post will highlight how we’ve lit our email strategy on fire and are expanding our competitive advantage because of it.

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Topics: Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Performance

Podcast: The Black Line Between Sales & Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 26, 2017 1:00:00 PM

Black-Line-Podcast.jpgThere are a lot of great things happening here at Imagine. Last week I shared the new approach we’re taking to supporting and driving faster growth for our clients. Today, I get to announce the official launch of our new podcast The Black Line Between Sales & Marketing. This time I’m hosting the podcast in conjunction with my friend, client, and vendor, Mike Donnelly, the CEO of Seventh Sense. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

You may be thinking, “Do we really need another podcast? Afterall, I can’t keep up with all of the great podcasts I’m already subscribed to.” The answer, of course, is an emphatic “Yes!”

What makes The Black Line Podcast unique? If you look at the landscape of podcasts and content in the sales, marketing, demand generation and business growth arena you’ll see three types of programming:

  • Best practices & how-tos
  • Interviews focused on wisdom and thought leadership
  • Interviews focused on stories and experience 
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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Demand Generation, Sales

Why We're Changing Our Approach to Serving Clients

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 19, 2017 12:27:02 PM

Why We're Changing Our Approach to Serving ClientsFor years I’ve come to this blog to write how customers and the world of sales and marketing are changing at rates never before seen. Today I'm excited to share some changes that we're making at Imagine in how we are working with clients.

I've been advising business owners on growth my entire adult life. Figuring out how to grow businesses isn't just my vocation, it's my avocation.

For the first nine years of running Imagine Business Development, friends and associates would tell me that I needed to find a hobby...something that would allow me to break away from the intensity of what I do on a daily basis. I took up brewing beer, coaching baseball, reading fiction books and bird watching (okay the last one is a lie, I never took up bird watching). Finally, I realized that this is my hobby.

I'm lucky. I've had a front-row seat - as a student, practitioner and advisor - to the most dynamic period in business in the past 100+ years. I've worked firsthand with more than 2,000 companies and I can say conclusively that growing a business today is more complicated and challenging than at any time I've seen or studied. On the one hand, organizations have access to more talent, technology and opportunity than ever before. It is these assets and strengths that are also making things as challenging as they are. As Brian Halligan, CEO at HubSpot, shared in his keynote at Inbound17, "It's never been so easy to start a business...and so hard to scale one."

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, B2B Sales Strategy, Demand Generation

What Inbound17 Means for the Future of Sales and Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 9, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Inbound17.jpg

This post also appeared on LinkedIn

What a week! I think I'm still recovering from, yet another, magnificent Inbound festival (I have got to call it something more than a conference). A week filled with catching up with old friends, making new ones, learning from peers and seeing and hearing what the future will bring was as exciting as always.

This year's conference had a different feel to it. Once again there were no significant product announcements. (While HubSpot did announce their new Customer Success Hub, it is not released yet, and I have not seen it.)

However, unlike last year (where the focus was on important, internal product improvements) this conference had much more of a meta-trend feel to it. You had to pay attention to notice the key takeaways, but they were there, and their impact will most likely be big.

The following are my three key takeaways, and why I think they’re important and meaningful for any growth-focused executive:

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Trends

Deliverability:  Conquering The Email Marketing Problem

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Sep 14, 2017 2:00:00 PM

email-marketing.pngFrom the days when Google announced their “email killer” Wave, I’ve heard marketers and consultants say things like, “Email is dead.” My response to those who say that to me is always: “Really? What do you use instead?”  

I usually don’t get an answer, or someone starts rambling on about social media, private communication networks like Slack, or they claim organic (or paid) search is the only viable strategy. They say if people want what you do then they’ll find you, and a marketer’s (or salesperson’s) job is to ensure that the right people can find you.

While there is certainly truth to the statement that people will find you (and no one can question the growing importance of social media, search and the challenge that communication networks like Slack represent) the fact is that email is still the number one tool in the toolbox for managing and developing business relationships. Consider (sources: Content Marketing Institute & Optinmonster):

  • 77% of B2B marketers use email in the marketing mix  
  • 91% rate email as a key piece of content marketing success
  • 2.7 billion people use email
  • 91% of users use email at least daily
  • You're 7x more likely to originate a customer via email than other channels
  • 58% of users cite it as the first channel they go to every day

The problem is that email is a “push” communication tactic, in a “pull” world. Additionally, when you’re sending an email to someone, you are competing for attention in what is probably the noisiest and toughest place to compete - the inbox. This means that your email strategy must rise to a higher standard. Good email marketing simply isn’t good enough.

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Topics: Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Lead Nurturing

The 10 Worst Vanity Metrics Every Marketer Uses

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Aug 31, 2017 5:00:00 PM

The 10 Worst Vanity Metrics Every Marketer UsesWhat you measure gets done...so be very careful about what you measure.

The story of Moneyball is a powerful one. Despite its popularity, its central thesis is often overlooked. While many people point to the new analytics that Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane identified that others ignored, the real power (and advantage) was in their ability to determine the metrics that everyone else valued that, in reality, did not lead to success.

The time has come (more accurately the time is long past due) for Moneyball to come to marketing and sales.  

Twenty-first-century marketing, led by the movement to inbound marketing, made a compelling promise: greater insights, fast & better decisions and the ability to separate the “signal from the noise.” Businesses of all shapes, sizes and industries would finally be able to stop debating opinions and feelings and would be able to rely on facts and data.

While it has fully delivered on the promise of more metrics (I would argue too many metrics), it has not delivered on the promise of insights and smarter decisions, backed by facts and data.

The reason? People measure the wrong things. The vast majority of metrics used by marketers and executives are what I call “vanity metrics”. What is a vanity metric? It’s a metric that can make you feel good but is not an indicator of success or advancement.  

If they’re ineffective, you may ask, why are vanity metrics so attractive? For two reasons:

  • They’re easy to measure.
  • They’re easier to control (and therefore they make bosses and clients feel better).

Identifying, tracking and utilizing metrics that actually contribute to success are hard to detect and uncover. I recently shared an example of a set of metrics we regularly use in guiding our business and advising our clients.

I love metrics, but it’s important to note that it’s better to have no metrics than to focus on the wrong metrics. Today I share 10 of the most popular metrics that are used by the vast majority of practitioners but do little or no good.  

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Topics: Lead Generation, Inbound Marketing, Performance