B2B Marketing: Keeping track of your competitors

We all “love” our competition. And that’s why we like to keep track of what they are up to. Now you could visit each competitor’s website on a daily basis, pay a clipping service to research the latest news on your competitors put this all costs money and time. In my experience leveraging the power of Google search catches about 90 percent of the relevant stuff you need to know. And the great thing is: You can automate this by setting up Google Alerts. It’s super easy and takes no more than 15 minutes to set up. So instead of postponing it until tomorrow, read this how to guide (5 min) and then get started (15 min) so you can enjoy the first results in your email inbox tomorrow morning.

Step 1: Generate a list of relevant keywords
If you are reading my blog regularly, you are probably familiar with the keyword concept by now. For the other 99% a quick explanation: Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client: Which search phrases would you enter? It is important that you don’t take the keywords YOU think are relevant but the keywords YOUR CLIENT will use.
There are three types of keywords you should research:
1. Generic informational keywords. For wywy, this would include keywords such as “TV analytics”, “TV attribution” etc. The generic keywords will help you keep tabs on what’s going in the industry and also catch new competitors entering the space.
2. Product names, trademarks. For wywy, this would be “TV Sync”, “LiveSync” etc.
3. Company names. Make sure to also include “similar” spellings of the company name. Example: The Trade Desk, TradeDesk, TheTradeDesk.

Step 2: Set up Google Alerts
The actual process is very straight forward: Just add each keyword and then double check the options. I suggest setting it to “daily” so you receive the alerts first thing in the morning. This way you can quickly browse the results on your way to work or when you check your email. Use the region and language filters to limit your search results to the relevant regions of your business. If you are active in multiple countries, you should have a list with generic, product and company name keywords for every language/country.
google-alert
Important: Google will send out the alert at the same time you created it. So get to the office early tomorrow morning and set up all alerts so you’ll get them on your way to work the next day.

Pro tip (you need to be logged out of Google for this): Instead of using your own email address set up a group email address which receives the alerts so you can easily add or delete users to the alerts emailing list.

Step 3: Learn how to quickly scan the results
If you make the check part of your daily routine, it probably takes you max. 2 minutes per day. I highly suggest learning the keyboard shortcuts on how to read the next email to make the scanning of the results even faster. In Gmail, you can use the J key to jump to the previous email (and the K key to jump to the newer email): I usually start with the latest Google Alerts email, using the J key to quickly scan the 10 or so emails I get per day, normally taking less than 1 minute in total. If anything catches your attention, you can just click on the headline to read it later or forward this within your company.

Inbound Marketing: How to own the informational search results

Once a potential client is interested in your topic, most of the time the first thing he turns to is Google. The informational search phase is probably your best bet (i.e. value for money) to channel the attention towards your company. The potential client will research your topic and the companies operating in that area. And now is your time to shine – in other words: To be in the top 5 results for every search. This creates awareness of your company and also trust – after all, you wouldn’t be shown in the top search results if your company wasn’t relevant, right?

There are two ways to be on top of the search results: By paying $$$ and being listed in the paid search results (booking the right keywords through Google AdWords), which most of your competitors do. Or by being smart and coming up in the organic search results. The amount of work is essentially the same, but the smart choice requires a bit more work in the beginning. And as a bonus, the smart choice does not cost you ongoing marketing $$$ – once you are start your search engine advertising (SEA) campaign, it’s really hard to let go and you just keep on paying.

You don’t really need to be an expert in search engine optimization (SEO) to be on top of the organic search results as B2B is not very competitive when it comes to SEO. Unless you try to optimize for “credit card” or “buy car”, a few simple steps will do to push you to the top results within in a couple of weeks.

Step 1: Identifying the right keywords
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client: Which search phrases would you enter? It is important that you don’t take the keywords YOU think are relevant but the keywords YOUR CLIENT will use. Start off with entering your competitors’ names. Check the Google auto-suggestions, the paid search campaigns and the related search suggestions at the end of the page. Google basically offers you the right keywords on a silver plate. Then try more generic keywords (in my case e.g. “TV analytics”, “TV attribution”). Don’t go too generic as you need to focus on your niche. Important: If you are doing business in multiple countries, use the Google Adwords Preview tool to preview the results in the relevant geo-location and language as the keywords could differ a lot (e.g. in my case “TV Tracking” is a commonly used keyword for TV Analytics in Germany while in the US it means something totally different).
google-auto-suggestion
Google auto-suggestions

google-related-searches
Google related searches at end of search page

Step 2: Read, read, read
Once you have identified the top 5-10 keywords, read the top 10 results for each keyword to get a feeling on what others wrote on the topic. This helps you understand what the potential client is looking for when he searches for that specific keyword.

Step 3: Create informational articles
Write an informational article about the topic (which is different from the other top 10 results you just read). Just think of it as if you were creating a Wikipedia article on that keyword. Your goal is to inform the potential client, not to sell your product (yet). Make it easy to read: Not too short, not too long, add an image / a graphic, maybe a video, a catchy headline, a good meta description, sub headlines for structure, good cross-references for further reading (both to external sources and to your own website). Use the keyword in the headline, in the meta description, in the text, in the image name etc. to give the reader the impression that this article is exactly what he is looking for. If putting the keyword into your headline, text etc. does not fit / feels awkward, your article is not catching the topic. At the end of the article, add a short note that you sell product XYZ and add a contact person.
Remember: The client is still in the information phase, you want to position your company as industry expert.
Important: Make sure that your articles differentiate themselves enough – only one excellent article per keyword / keywords that are very similar.

Step 4: Links
While you might have heard that SEO is all about getting links (which is true), your B2B marketing niche does not need a ton of links (oftentimes even no external links) to get top-ranked. In fact, start with a good internal linking on your website first. Make sure your product pages point to the informational pages and vice versa and that there is good internal linkage between the informational pages as well. You should do this both within the text of a page but also at the end, e.g. by using a short list similar to Wikipedia “More information here: …”. As your articles are of informational nature (and not promoting your company or product), you can mention (i.e. link to) them in your guest posts, articles, comments, Quora posts or forum discussions as well. Every reader loves valuable background information through an additional link. If your article contains an infographic (example here) or a white paper for download (example here), this is a great way to link back to the original source as well. Promote your article with a tweet, share it on Facebook, LinkedIn etc.

Step 5: Wait
While SEA allows you to pay to immediately be visible in the search results, creating content and appearing in the organic search results will take some days, if not weeks. You can check whether Google picked you up by entering this in Google:
“[headline here without brackets]” site:yourdomain.com
This will show you whether Google has indexed your website (so that it can be ranked at all). To check your actual ranking position, use the Google AdWords preview tool as your browser history and your location will skew the results you see towards a better position for your website.

Step 6: Analyze and optimize
The best way to know whether you nailed it with your content is analyzing the user’s behavior on your website: What’s the bounce rate (the percentage of users who hit the back button on the browser), how long is the user staying, is he clicking on further links etc. In Google Analytics, you can see this in the “landing page” tab. While there are no exact rules to follow, use common sense.
A few examples:
– A 80% bounce rate is OK if the user stays 2-3 minutes on your website (he read the article and then went back to check on the other search results) while a 80% bounce rate with 5 seconds time on site tells you that the user hit the back button right away because he did not find what he was expecting.
– A 20% bounce rate with 10 seconds time spent on site probably means that the user did not really find what he was looking for but clicked on a link that seemed to better match his search. In this case you probably have two similar keyword topics and need to make sure to get your internal linking right and rewrite one of the articles to really distinguish between the two.
– 5 page visits might either mean that the user is confused and trying to find something else or really intrigued by your content, diving deeper into your website. Check the time spent on site and the behavior flow (what was the next link the user clicked?). If he went to products, then checked out the reference clients, it looks like you have a convinced reader. If he jumped between the informational articles, he might be confused.

When you are done with all of the above, don’t forget to tag the users for your retargeting lists.

Email Newsletter: Using statistics to identify prospects

You have tied your CRM software to your email newsletter tool (we use Salesforce and Mailchimp but there are many others) so that new business contacts will be automatically included in your email newsletters. You have read all those awesome guides on how to create great newsletters. And you have sent out your newsletter. Now you check the open rate to understand if the email subject headline and the content was good. You might check the click breakdown to understand which topic created most interest. And now you are waiting for your contacts to hit reply or call you. Yes, some of your contacts might just do that. But your email statistics will tell you a lot more than just how good the content was. Here’s how:

Step 1: Download your open rates, your click rates and your unsubscribe reports.
Usually you can get this as a CSV/Excel file. In Mailchimp it will look like this:
mailchimp-open-rate-export

Step 2: Sort your open rate by number of opens.
Most contacts will open your email once. But there will be some contacts with a couple of opens and quite often some contacts with dozens of opens. And that’s where it gets interesting. It means that this person either opened the email multiple times or forwarded the email to colleagues, friends etc. In either case you have identified someone who has a strong interest in what you mentioned in the email. Call the person and say: “I have noticed that you were really interested in the email, how can I help you?” If they forwarded the email within the company and it generated a lot of opens, ask him if you could come in and do a short session on this topic for all people who are interested. After all, if 50 people opened the email and showed interest you have a pretty convincing argument in getting to pitch in front of the entire company.

Step 3: Contact everyone who clicked.
Clicking on a link means showing strong interest in that topic. Call the person and say “I have noticed that you had a strong interest in [topic]. Is there anything I can help you with / do you need more information / can I send you a case study…?”

Step 4: Take a close look at the unsubscribers.
Check the unsubscriber list for two things. First, go through the list to see if you had anyone on your “to call lead list” – deprioritize them as they have indicated less interest. Second, check for additional comments an unsubscriber might have left. If a contact takes the time to write an additional comment, most of the time it has valuable information. It might either make for a good reason to call that person “I noticed that you unsubscribed from our newsletter and wanted to call your regarding your comment…” or to learn why the person is not interested any more and how you can improve your future email newsletters.

So, start picking up the phone and working on those leads. It’s almost a guarantee for getting an appointment.

Bonus tip:
If it is too many leads for you to handle, you can focus on the most promising and send a quick follow-up note via email to the rest (i.e contacts with many opens or clicks). The email software will usually allow you to create groups or segments within one list. Put all the “not so hot” leads into one Excel list and then upload them as a segment. Target this segment with a short text: “Hi XYZ, I noticed you were interested in XYZ. Let me know if you need any additional information or if I can be of any further help. You can reach me directly on my mobile phone at 123 456 7890.”

B2B Marketing: Retargeting

There has been a lot written on online marketing but the focus is mostly on B2C. As my company wywy is operating in the adtech/martech world, I have had a hard time finding good stuff on B2B marketing. So I decided to write a mini-series on this topic to share my experience. So let’s start.

One of the most difficult things in B2B marketing is to find the right people to talk to. Once you identify them, it is even harder to get them to talk to you. For one, there are so many vendors constantly knocking on their doors (or calling them up, sending emails etc.) that often they just start ignoring all vendors. Second, you don’t know and can’t really influence their decision process as deciding on a B2B product is not a snap decision.

Well, that’s a bit of a bummer. But there is one time where you actually have identified the right people, they are interested in your product, are close to making a decision and probably would even talk to you: When they visit your website. Why on earth would they visit your website otherwise? They probably heard about you from a friend, read something about your company, got a recommendation, maybe you even did some content marketing which ranked high in some Google search results.

Unfortunately not everyone will contact you right away. In fact, our “conversion rate” of people interested in contacting us is about 1%. So now it’s up to you to “follow up”. Just like you would when people visit your booth at a conference. You want to achieve two goals:

Goal 1: Brand recognition. They should remember your name so you are part of the relevant set when they make a final decision.

Goal 2: Brand association. They should associate your company name with whatever you sell. Like Kleenex, Mailchimp, Coke, Oracle.

So while they most likely won’t leave their contact details, you can still get your message across even after them visiting your website. Set up a retargeting list to target your website visitors with additional messages. It’s actually quite easy:

Step 1: Set up a Google Adwords account
Set up your Adwords account. Google frequently offers coupons for new clients so you might want to search for “Adwords coupon” first. You do not have to worry about setting up conversions on your website (why, I’ll explain in a bit).

Step 2: Set up retargeting lists
Google currently requires a minimum of 100 users in one retargeting list. I would suggest to split your website visitors into a few larger buckets so you have 100+ users in each list, e.g. splitting by product or by country. In order to get a feeling of how large the lists can be, just check your Web Analytics tool by looking at the page breakdown (for product splits) or country breakdown (for country splits). I also recommend splitting the lists into different time frames, e.g. visited websites within last 7 days, within last 30 days, within last 90 days. This way you can set a higher CPM for people who recently visited your website as those are the “hot” leads. You can then slowly “fade out” your retargeting by decreasing the CPM for 30 day and 90 day lists.

Step 3: Create online banners
I suggest going with the most popular desktop formats (i.e. Leaderboard, Rectangle, Skyscraper). As you want to catch your B2B clients while they are sitting in front of their work computer, do not bother about mobile formats. Make sure your company logo is clearly visible as you want people to remember your name. Then add a simple message, 3-8 words. Don’t make it too long to read as you have only 1-2 seconds that people will linger on/scan the banner. We use easy to digest catch phrases such as “The TV Analytics Experts”. We also use known brand names to highlight case studies, e.g. “How Nissan increased brand awareness with TV synced ads”. Don’t create fancy banners, this is not a beauty contest. You want people to just acknowledge your logo (goal 1, brand recognition) and to remember certain words (goal 2, brand association). The goal is NOT to get people to click your ads, the goal is attention. Don’t bother with a strong call-to-action button (we use a simple “Learn more >” at the bottom right). That’s why you don’t need to set up conversion tracking. Use freelancers to create the different banner variations for you (we used Upwork for 40 different banner variations in two different formats, cost us $50).

wywy-banner
(click on banner to see the animation)

Here’s an example of “find my brand name” and “try to squeeze three messages into one banner”:
visual-iq

Step 4: Create retargeting campaigns
Set up a display campaign in Adwords and use ad groups to set up the different retargeting lists (e.g. Germany 7 days, Germany 30 days or ProductA 7 days, ProductA 30 days). Make sure you use retargeting list combinations for your different time frames, i.e. use the 7 day list and exclude the 30, 90 day lists. Then set a global frequency cap on the campaign level so that people do not fell too annoyed (i.e. 5 or so) by your ads. Set the mobile bid adjustment to -100% as you want to just target people on their desktop computer. As stated earlier, set a high CPM for the “fresh” (i.e. 7 day) contacts, then decrease the CPM for the “older” contacts. You should try to max out the impressions per day at least with the 7 day list (an easy calculation is list size x frequency cap). If you reach too few impressions, set a higher CPM.

Step 5: Check your website traffic
Once you have set up the campaign, check your direct and organic search traffic. Here’s a screenshot on how wywy’s direct traffic went up at the beginning of February right when we started our retargeting campaigns. While I can’t prove causation for sure, the direct traffic had been pretty constant before and there were no other large events, online marketing projects, PR coverage at that time. A nice increase of 40-50% in direct traffic. Not bad for spending a couple of dollars per week.

direct-traffic

The whole set-up should take you maximum a day. Yes, it’s a bit of work but standing at the conference booth also takes a full day out of your work time. I’d love to hear your experience, share it in the comments.

Optimizing local business listings in Google search

Whenever someone outside of Germany searched for my company wywy, the business listing for the German headquarters in Munich would show up. We double-checked our Google+ business locations and while they showed the correct address, a search in the US or in the UK would still return the German address. Definitely no way to impress US or UK clients as they would think we’d just operate in Germany. So I dug a little deeper and tested until I finally found the right way to do it using structured data mark-up. To be honest, there is probably not THE one way to do it but rather a combination of the Google+ listing and the structured data mark-up. 1 week after we implemented the changes Google started showing the correct business listing in most of the cases.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide including an example for our US listing:

Step 1: Check your local listing
Use the Google Adwords Preview Tool to get a local search result. Searching from Germany will not show you the same results as someone searching from the US. Choose the location (in my example: USA), the language (English), the search engine (google.com). Then type in your search to get the result.

Google AdWords Preview options:
preview-options

 

This is the original result for a US search:
wywy-us-search-old

 

Step 2: Use structured data mark-up
Google has a fairly detailed explanation on how to add structured data to your website. In our case, we wanted to make Google understand that there is a local address and phone number for the US market. Although you can add any phone number, Google asks you to specify the type (customer service, sales…).

This is what our final code on our contact page looked like:
structured-mark-up

For good measure we also added some structured data to our imprint page:
code-imprint

Step 3: Test your structured data mark-up
Google offers a tool to validate your code. Once validated, you can integrate it into your website. Done. Finally.

Here’s what a correct / validated mark-up looks like:
structured-mark-up-validated

 

And finally the correct result:
wywy-us-search

Pro tip: Even if you don’t have any offices abroad, you might want to add virtual phone numbers to make your company look international. There are many virtual phone providers out there, we use Sonetel. Just buy a virtual local phone number and forward it to any number worldwide.

You like what you read and haven’t signed up to my newsletter yet? Well, it’s about time, isn’t it? ;)

When does FinTech disrupt housing expenditures?

I just read an article on Techcrunch about a start-up who wants to make you able to sell a fractional ownership of your home.

That got me thinking. About two thirds of our income is spent on housing, transportation and food:

us-consumer-spending-2009-copyright-creditloan.com
Image credit Creditloan

Looking at transportation, we have quite some disruption in the making. Be it Uber which aims to become the marketplace between transportation demand and offerings. Be it Tesla, Google (and rumored Apple) which are working on driverless cars, essentially questioning on why we should own a car at all (after all, we need the car on average less than 4% of the day). With roughly a fifth of the average consumer’s paycheck going towards transportation IMHO consumers are ready to change their behavior if they can cut costs significantly.

Looking at food, we can also see quite some changes. Be it Amazon Fresh, taking the idea of Walmart (large supermarkets = less costs = lower prices = more consumers) to the next level, essentially cutting out the entire supermarket and delivering right from the warehouse to the consumer. Be it all delivery services, making any restaurant available at your fingertip.

But the largest chunk of our income is spent on housing – a staggering one third of our paycheck goes to housing on average. And nothing has really changed – you either pay a monthly rent or get a mortgage and buy a house. This is the largest monthly cash-out for any consumer and NOTHING has changed. OK, you might think of Nest as helping you cut utility cost but that is tiny compared to the huge potential. This is an industry ready for disruption as even small relative changes mean massive absolut savings for the average consumer.

Programmatic TV: The next frontier in TV Advertising

More and more clients have started asking us if could also help them with the TV buy based on our TV Analytics’ tool recommendations. In marketing speak: Automate the buy with our unique engagement data set. Makes sense, after all what good is an analytics tool if you don’t act upon the results? Anyway, I’ve written a couple of pieces on Programmatic TV that might be interesting: An overview of the market, my initial and more elaborate thoughts on how Programmatic TV changes the TV ad currency, why I think wywy’s engagement metrics approach is the right strategy, and my (maybe a bit) controversial post on why I think the digital first players will drive the change.

Why SEO should become content marketing

I recently read an article on one of my favorite SEO blogs. It basically stated that classical SEO is dead as Google leaves nearly no space for organic listings on money keywords anymore (or as one industry expert put it, Google still has room for 1% more earnings by completely eliminating organic results). Ouch, that hurts as most start-ups see SEO as a cheap marketing channel. Well, IMHO the days of super-cheap marketing via a bit of onpage and offpage optimization are over. It was fun while it lasted.

aida

Why do you still go to a brick&mortar store to buy stuff? To get advice, an expert opinion. And this is what needs to happen to SEO as well. Move away from trying to optimize for money keywords at the action end of the conversion funnel towards more relevant content at the upper part of the conversion funnel. Create interest and desire in the products you sell. Be it product reviews, comparisons, how-to-manuals… The German ecommerce retailer Notebooks Billiger employs a handful of people to write reviews about products on their blog, even if the products are shitty. They do it because they want to be perceived as the best price (everyone wants that!) AND transparent retailer. SEO today should not just be technical, it needs to be content driven beyond optimized keywords texts. Start thinking about how the conversion funnel to your product looks like at the very top, creating attention and interest. Become the expert, go-to source through content marketing. Use clever retargeting, SEA, social media to catch the people at the action end of the conversion funnel.

Making TV Advertising accountable – TV Analytics

Coming from the online marketing world I am used to people measuring “jedes i-Tüpfelchen” (I love this German word, the rough translation would probably be measuring the dot on every i). You constantly come up with different variants and test, which works best, down to the conversion level. In the TV world, everything is a bit different… actually, a lot different. Traditionally, you would optimize your TV spendings based on reaching your target audience with a given budget (check out gross rating point on Wikipedia). Obviously, there was also direct response TV (“buy this steak knife set and and you’ll get these amazing gazillion things for free on top”), using call logs to measure performance.

Enter the iPhone. Smartphones are now part of our lives, in fact I bet when you read this, your phone is less than 1 meter away from you. So many people are using their phone in parallel to watching TV, resulting in more and more people actually visiting the advertised URLs immediately after the airing. Now that’s quite cool because you can measure this effect. And suddenly a whole new world opens up where you can understand which creative, which time of day, which weekday or which TV network works best in engaging TV viewers with your website.

TV Analytics is about identifying those best performing ad slots and then optimizing your TV campaign budget. And we are not talking about maybe getting 10-20% more out of your campaign, we are talking about multiple hundred percent. Here’s the result of a client we recently worked with:

TV-Analytics-wywy-Experteer-TV-channels
Source: wywy

There is obviously more to consider than just looking at the impact of your website but adding engagement to your TV campaign success metrics won’t hurt.

TV Advertising: Millions and millions lost

I am amazed at how siloed TV advertising and online advertising still are. We’ve been educating the market on how to connect these two worlds for quite some time now but it’s harded than I thought. Advertisers are spending millions on their TV campaigns, show a URL at the end of the commercial to prompt the viewer to visit the website. What would you expect on the website? The product you saw on TV? Well, in 50% of the cases you will not see the product on the homepage AT ALL (yes, no mention whatsoever). Wow. Here are some stats:

wywy-study-TV_synced_websites_mobile_version-stats
Source: wywy

I recently stayed up all night to do a quick study on the superbowl ads, as they are probably the most expensive ad slots in the world. The results were a little bit better, with “only” 18% not showing the product AT ALL on their homepage. Well, apparently spending a couple of million on one spot makes it easier to tell a seamless story. We are getting there. Now back to work.