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Keep Your Brand Top Of Mind

A lot of companies back off their communications activities during the summer, according to Ray Hennessey. It’s hot out, people are on vacation and it’s hard to grab attention. However, Labor Day is in the rear-view mirror, so if you’ve continued to kick back on your communications efforts this past week, it’s time to get it back in gear.


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In his article entitled “8 Branding Tips To Close Out 2018” he talks about how to keep your brand out there.Here are some lessons he shares on how to put a bow on your year:

1. Everything is a brand.

At one time, brand building was solely the purview of advertising firms or pure-play marketers and referred only to a product or the company behind it. Now brand representatives include the company CEO and everyone who ever comes in contact with a customer or the general public.


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As a result, communications executives are now also stewards of the brand and ensure that the media not only gets the quote right, but that they understand what a brand believes.

2. Authenticity matters.

Authenticity is still the best differentiator for a person or a brand. The number one reason people don’t want to hear your story is that they don’t believe you. Audiences are very discerning, and they don’t want to waste what’s left of their attention spans consuming lies.

3. You must stand for something.

What you do is just part of the equation. What you believe—coupled with what you do—makes up your brand. Increasingly, people make decisions on products and services based on how brands align with their own values. Understanding those values, and evangelizing, makes for the most effective marketing.


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4. There’s digital media—and then there’s everything else.

Sure, newspapers are still printed daily. News is broadcast on television and radio all day, every day. However, all of those media channels rely on digital promotion for audience growth. Some people love to hold a newspaper or magazine in their hands, but most people love consuming information on phones. Digital platforms have become the confluence of all media types.

5. Social posts rule.

Financial companies in particular shy away from social media for compliance reasons—but that has to change. The discussions on social media reflect what’s important to clients and should influence decisions, whether that be a service to buy or a vote to cast. Social media is now the mainstream media. Use it wisely.

6. Show; don’t tell.

A visual element, whether video, infographic, art or a combination of them all, tells the story so much more effectively than plain words on a page. Video production is key to effective PR.

7. Good is better than plenty.

Just because you are getting a lot of media hits doesn’t mean you’re converting to customers. As measurement has improved, we’ve learned that being targeted and getting in front of the right audiences is always preferable to broad exposure.

8. Metrics matter.

In old days, PR was just about raw media hits—but the impact of those opportunities was difficult to measure. Even today, some PR firms continue to avoid real metrics to measure success. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and success today is driven by data.

Now think about this: What tips would you add to this list, PR Dailyreaders? How are you looking to finish your 2018 campaigns?

About The Author

Stand Out

Now is the time to think about what’s your differentiator? How do you stand out in the current competitive mortgage market? One sure way to get there is to create good content that gets you online traction. How do you do that?


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In the article entitled “5 Keyword Research Steps not to Overlook to Create Better Content” written by Ann Smarty, she shares some tricks of the trade.She says everything, from SEO to content marketing to customer engagement, is hinging on finding and cornering the best and brightest keyword combinations.


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For the most part, you probably have the process down to an art. You know the steps, you are aware of how to use the data and have been doing it for long enough that you have watched the resulting benefits rolling in.


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But could you be skipping a couple of the more creative tactics in keyword research? Here are some to consider implementing (if you weren’t already).

1. Organize Your Keyword Lists Properly

Long gone are the days when we had to create a landing page for every little variation of a keyword we were able to find. I am glad our industry is forced to evolve into a more integrated and smarter tactic. These days search engines prefer long-form expert content that covers a lot of related concepts and is organized well.

Content structure starts at the keyword research level – therefore keyword list organizing is a crucial step (which is overlooked by many content publishers, sadly).

Keyword clustering isn’t new, but it’s more frequently discussed these days because it helps structure your content and optimize it for a lot of related terms. A more common approach to keyword clustering is finding a common term and going from there. This approach is very limiting but luckily we have more advanced tools at our disposal.

2. Research Questions Behind Search Queries

Google search offers a great way to research what people are wondering about when they type a query in the search box. We have all seen the expandable section that provides the question, offers a bit of an answer and allows the reader to click-through to learn more.

More than that, it provides a chance for researching niche questions and thus understanding your audience better. That makes answering questions, especially niche queries that fewer sites are trying to answer, an awesome strategy.

Covering niche questions can diversify any site’s organic rankings:

“People Also Ask” results help you create better-targeted content (and attract more organic users)

“People Also Ask” results are closely connected to Google’s “Featured snippet” algorithm, which means that covering them in your content can give you additional exposure in search.

We don’t know how exactly Google finds these questions and how its algorithm decides whether a certain question deserves to be listed there. But after years of using and optimizing for Google, I can be fairly sure that paying attention to whatever Google is showing is a solid marketing strategy.

Make “People Also Ask” results a part of your content research and optimization process. Look for the questions people are asking that you are uniquely qualified to answer. Then create content addressing them, attracting more organic leads and building your site authority.

3. Use Social Platforms For Keyword Validation

The platforms we have access to these days provide so much opportunity to understand your audience better by simply watching and recording what they do and what they talk about.

Social media is a goldmine of information, as well as a great way to directly engage with customers, would-be customers and influencers. You can also use it to validate your findings when it comes to keywords.

Because the influence of social platforms is so intense, keywords are not just important when it comes to general search. You can get some great insights from social media or even a way to establish a whole other style of keyword driven campaign. Since so much referral traffic comes from social media platforms, there is no excuse not to make it a big part of your efforts.

There are dozens of tools you can use for social media monitoring (Cyfe, TweetDeck, Hootsuite, SproutSocial…). All of those and the many others that exist are great, efficient methods of gathering social insights. But don’t underestimate the power of good ‘ol fashioned search and sort on the social platforms themselves. Adding a bit of human element means you have a better chance of establishing complete lists that use imagination in the search, something automated tools lack. Use tools to monitor social media context but play with different search operators to find those that work well for you.

The reason social media should be used for keyword research is that it provides real-life context: Actual people talking about your core topic. In this sense, tools that analyze social media context and provide related terms and hashtags can provide additional data for you to work with.

4. Monitor Competitors’ Keywords (and How They Use Them)

Your competitors are dominating their own keywords. Maybe you should be following their example. To do that, you need a couple of tools that will help you to find out what they are targeting and how they are doing it.

Free tools really don’t have all the features you need (though they can still be awesome for supplementing your efforts), so you need to be prepared to invest some money.

For an in depth competitive insight try Spyfu. Their data dates back to many years ago. In fact, I think it’s the first competitive intelligence tool I’ve come across in our industry

If you don’t mind building your own dashboard, Cyfe is an all-in-one business platform that includes some monitoring tools. You select and build your widgets and get only what you need, for about $19 per month, less if you pay annually.

With Cyfe you can monitor any amount of Twitter search widgets, Moz, RSS feeds (those from Google Alerts, for example), Google Trends, and so much more.

5. Expand to Related Keywords

Sometimes you just need to see what other key-phrases you could be using in order to be inspired and improve your research. I have lost track of how many times I have gotten a whole new campaign started, or even found content ideas, using this method. Though it used to be harder, having to be done manually or with some less than stellar research tools that required a few extra steps.

For this task you should look at Buzzsumo because it has some of the most thorough insights and analytics you could hope to find. That includes both search keywords and social media and content information. Since I use content as my primary marketing foundation, it is amazingly helpful. Its Question Analyzer feature is a great way to expand your initial keyword lists with related terms and phrases.

In the end, keyword research is useful on so many levels, from content brainstorming to gaining organic visibility. There’s no one perfect way to do it, but if you want to stand out in today’s mortgage market you need to do it.

About The Author

Don’t Forget About SEO

In the article “15 Tips To Improve Your SEO” written by Laura King Edwards, she says thatSearch engine optimization (SEO) has the greatest influence on organic traffic, generated when users type a search term in Google and click on your organic listing in the search results (SERPs). Most people never scroll past the first or second page of results, which is why marketers covet top spots.

Here are her 15 SEO tips to increase organic traffic to your website:

1.Write for your audience.

Identify your audience’s problem or need and deliver content that helps lead them to a solution or answers common questions. Also, remember that your audience may not refer to products or subjects in the same way as your organization.


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For example, if you reference smart homes as “connected homes,” but your audience is more likely to search for “smart home technology” versus “connected home technology,” you will have more success incorporating smart home language into your content.

Keyword research is essential to determine how people phrase their searches, and you should always write content to respond to those searches.

2.Create an editorial calendar—but be flexible.

Depending on how often you publish, you may want to plan topics for an entire quarter or more. However, leave room in your plan to shuffle article order as needed or add topics to capitalize on industry trends or user searches.


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3. Jump on industry trends and timely topics.

Think about industry or seasonal trends that may incite your audience to seek out relevant information online and create content to support those searches.


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4. Develop evergreen content.

Content that can drive traffic to your site over an extended time is the bedrock of a successful SEO strategy. However, this doesn’t equal a one-and-done approach. Freshness is key, particularly if you’re in a competitive industry, so make sure to balance evergreen content with more timely topics.

5. Be unique.

Don’t simply regurgitate content that already exists elsewhere. If you want to grow organic traffic to your site, you have to offer a unique or different solution to a question or problem.

6. Be better.

If people are looking for information on a particular subject, you likely aren’t the first company to publish relevant content. Peruse any sites that have already published and consider what they do well and where they have room to improve. What can you offer that they don’t already provide? What can you add to the conversation?

7. Conduct advanced keyword research—and have realistic expectations.

Choose keywords you can rank for, not just those with the highest volume. Is your audience interested in niche topics that are underserved or lightly covered?

8. Include keywords in your title, headlines, subheads and bold copy.

Google scans content much the same way humans scan content. Make it easy for search engines to determine what your content is about by including relevant keywords in places that are easy to spot. If it makes sense, you may also want to consider putting keywords at beginning of your headlines.

9. Build relationships with subject matter experts and industry influencers.

When you invest the time to partner with true subject matter experts, your content will be higher quality and more useful to your audience.

You may want to rely on a mix of experts within and outside your organization. The former can help further your organization’s profile as an authority, while the latter can cast a wider net and help get your content to people you may not already reach.

10. Have a link building strategy.

This is a two-way street. Selectively linking to other trustworthy sites can encourage links back to your site.

Internal link building gets less attention but is also an important step. Lots of orphaned blog posts don’t receive traffic as they age, because the site has no links guiding visitors from one evergreen content post to the next. Your mission is to keep people engaged and on your website by feeding them more relevant content instead of dead ends.

11. Use back-end features such as title tags and meta descriptions.

Your content should always include title tags (which appear on SERPs as the clickable headline) and meta descriptions (which summarize the content on a page).

12. Don’t forget image file names and alt tags.

Search engines can’t see images, but many people still forget to assign image file names and alt tags—which are crucial for helping search engines understand what the images—and the pages where those images live—are about.

13. Avoid careless technical errors.

Never move your website or delete a blog post without doing your due diligence on the back end. A few simple and necessary steps, such as creating 301 redirects, can help you avoid a damaging rash of broken links.

14. Provide a great user experience.

Search engines are amazing, but they still can’t consume and understand content the same way humans can. Instead, they monitor the way humans interact with websites to infer the quality of those sites — and reward the sites that perform better on these metrics with higher search rankings. If your site provides a poor user experience or doesn’t have a mobile-friendly design, its potential for organic growth will suffer.

15. Remember that there are no shortcuts or secret formulas.Content marketing can pay huge dividends, but it won’t happen overnight. Proceed with the understanding that you’re unlikely to close the sale the first time a person lands on your site—and treat SEO and organic traffic growth as an open-ended goal.

About The Author

Become A Thought Leader

Are you a thought leader? Should you even try to be a thought leader? Nicole Fallon notes that “While the aim of every executive is to run a successful company, many modern C-suite members also have their sights set on another, more esoteric goal: becoming a “thought leader” in their field.” She sees this as a worthy goal.

In her article entitled “What Is Thought Leadership, and Why Does It Matter?” she points out that “thought leadership is commonly discussed in the business world, and to the average person, it may sound like another annoying corporate buzzword. But behind the jargon is the honest and admirable ambition of being viewed as a credible industry expert, one who cuts through the “noise” and offers something worth listening to.”


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Thought leaders are seen as trustworthy, go-to authorities among industry colleagues and peers, said Jake Dunlap, CEO and founder of Skaled, a sales consulting firm.

“They possess an innate ability to contribute to the conversations happening today, while also being able to speculate on what is going to happen tomorrow. Rather than chime in on every topic, they set the pace for the industry and offer intelligent insights and informed opinions,” Dunlap said.

“A thought leader recognizes trends before they happen and applies that insight to achieve actual business results,” added Numaan Akram, founder and CEO of Rally, a company that coordinates crowdsourced event travel.


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As the phrase implies, though, having these insightful thoughts and ideas is only part of being a thought leader. The “leadership” portion counts for a lot, too. So, how do you become a thought leader? One way is to use LinkedIn.

In the article entitled “LinkedIn’s Tips For Creating More Meaningful Thought Leadership Pieces” written by Olivia Atkins, she remarks that content marketing ishaving a moment, with many marketers and brands using various platforms to keep their presence alive online. It’s no surprise then that LinkedIn, the professional social network, is filled with thought leadership and content pieces. What may come, as a shock is how few pieces actually stand out or have something of worth to say, lost in the ether of cyber space.

Speaking at The Drum’s Pitch Perfect conference, KL Daly, content partner manager, EMEA at LinkedIn stresses the importance of knowing a brand’s audience and suggests this will help with cut through as it should feed into crafting the sort of pieces readers want to see. She also reveals what type of content excels on LinkedIn and gives her advice on getting content to rise to the top of the pile.


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Because the web is so saturated with content, many marketers and buyers are disappointed with the quality of most thought leadership pieces published today. In fact, as little as 30% of B2B marketers are satisfied with how their organizations are pushing content marketing. The majority of op-eds are unsatisfactory and struggle with reader engagement. Daly reveals that the industry has a tendency to talk about things we all already know, regurgitating ideas, thoughts and statistics. However, with every year that passes, more content is being released online yet in reality, new and enlightening ideas aren’t being developed and so, much of it remains ineffective. To break this vicious cycle, Daly suggests rethinking the pitching process.

To make your content stand out, Daly puts forward a three-tier process. She highlights the importance of knowing your audience, understanding your place within the market and where your company’s skills sit. Only then will it be easier for you to work out what your organization’s niche is, allowing you then to determine your target audience. The more specific the audience, the better – as it means you can talk about a subject in-depth and avoid repeating information that’s already available online, she advises.

Understanding the right platform to post on is equally important. Daly details which topics drive most engagement on LinkedIn, citing industry trends and news as the most popular subjects, followed by articles on tips/best practices and jobs/skills. Determining these themes will improve your understanding of how to manipulate these platforms and gain most traction. Case studies and infographics were the most engaging content types for tech professionals on LinkedIn, according to Daly, so marketers should structure potential pitches for thought leadership pieces around this information. Knowing this, marketers can defy a client’s expectations should they require a more generic approach to pushing out content. Inform them that this approach has been proven to better engage LinkedIn users as it taps into what readers actively seek out.

There’s a general misconception that pushing out more content will equate to increased engagement. However Daly actually warns against this. Rather than become another voice in an already crowded space, she suggests focusing on fewer things and improving the quality of each, using Hollywood as an example. Take Disney, who in 2016 only made 13 films, four of which became the highest grossing of the year. Disney has also refined its formula and knows what stories now work; they continuously tell the same plotline over and over but disguised as different fictions – something Daly suggests marketers should mimic.

Once you know what your niche within the industry is, you can continue to rehash your idea and look for new angles within the constraints of that very specific perspective. Disney also does a great job of bringing out tangential content alongside the main film, through merchandise and promos. This helps to create a buzz around each movie’s release and Daly recommends that marketers do the same and look for new avenues to entice their audiences. By spending less money on creating content and investing the cash on media placement instead, she believes that these assets will drive audiences back to the original piece irrespective of the fact that minimal creative work has been carried out.

When pitching thought leadership pieces, remember to work out your USP. A strong or controversial point of view might appeal to readers; or the company’s expertise or leaders’ approach may help them to stand-out; or perhaps their opinion on a piece of news or product release could be of interest? It’s about catching a reader’s imagination and selling the company’s unique stamp. Before pitch stage, the client may have a very clear idea of what they want said in the piece, but don’t be afraid to challenge this notion. Sometimes they don’t actually know who their desired readers are or what they want to say with their message, which in that case means the responsibility falls onto the marketer to determine the fine details. By using insights to inform the process from start to finish, there will be less unknown, grey areas and more chance of creating something that means something to the target audience and beyond.

About The Author

Reach Your Target Market

Jeff Grover rightly asserts that “starting a business can seem daunting, albeit exciting, but it doesn’t happen all at once – nor should it” in his recent article published in Forbes entitled “Three Things You Can Do To Identify Your Target Market Today.” He goes on to note that as productivity expert and author David Allen has been quoted as saying, “You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it.”

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I have found that determining a target market is an important “project” that requires time, resources, a supportive network and extensive market research. However, this process is much more manageable when viewed as a series of actionable items.

Whether your product or service is new or you’re improving a current issue in your field, here are three actionable steps you can take today to identify your target market.

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1.) Use basic keyword research tools to pinpoint top queries.

Data mined from highly specified queries will inform you of what drives your competitors’ organic traffic. Keyword research data will help you regardless, but especially if you plan to use online marketing strategies. This information can also be useful for established businesses, as they create and share content online.

First, begin your research with a generic phrase or keyword for your target market. This will establish who your primary audience is, what questions they are asking and what solutions they expect.

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Once you’ve entered your keyword or phrase into Google Search, take note of all the top auto-suggestions as well as which companies rank in the search engine results page (SERP). Determine who your main competition is and what kind of products and services they provide. Not only will this information give you valuable insight into your competition in the field, but it will also allow you to find where there are gaps in services or product efficiency.

Utilize Google’s free AdWords Keyword Planner to guide your preliminary research. According to the 2017 Google Economic Impact report, companies make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords. Investing in such tools can increase profit and expand your company outreach.

Factoring in keyword research prior to starting your business will put you ahead of the game. Beyond the technical aspect of search engine optimization (SEO) benefits, these tools can help you determine the intent and problems of potential customers searching for answers.

2.) Gather anecdotal data from your personal network.

A newly formed business relies heavily on engaging with actual customers. It is one thing to enter in queries and get a general picture of your target audience, but it doesn’t help if you can’t attract their attention in the real world.

Send out a survey on social media or through email asking some fundamental questions about your business idea and the problem it solves. Using your Google Search query as your guide, and ask questions like these:

>>What solutions or resources are currently available to you?

>>How satisfied are you with available products or services?

>>How would you go about finding the information you need?

>>Describe your ideal product or service in this market.

>>Under what circumstances would you use such a product/service, and how much would you pay for it?

Take the responses from your survey and weigh each suggestion carefully. Will any of the ideas take more time or money to accommodate? Will you have to compromise goals or morals? How will these suggestions fit into your business plan or model?

Family, friends, acquaintances and strangers will all have ideas regarding what would work best, and the more diverse insights you can obtain, the better. Keep in mind that the most valuable input is from those who are both highly interested and able to buy the product or service you propose.

3.) Identify commonalities and research pain points.

Though not comprehensive, the information gathered from the above steps can pinpoint demographic or value-based similarities among those most interested in the problem you’re tackling.

Look at the queries generated from your preliminary searches. Do the related terms seem to resonate with a particular life stage, occupation, physical condition or geographical area? Of the email or survey responses, is there a certain gender, age, hobby or income level that unites the enthusiastic survey responders?

Pursue each common thread by learning more about that particular commonality. For example, if your product or service seems to appeal to do-it-yourselfers (DIYers), consider subscribing to Make: magazine to read more about what they value. If your business plan solves a problem primarily plaguing baby boomers, arrange an informal focus group with your friends in that age group to discuss those issues in more depth.

Almost every industry has outlets for information and conversation. Join these communities to begin a mutually beneficial exchange of value between your ideas (eventually your business) and your target market.

Down the road, you may decide to pursue generational market research, which explores age as well as social, economic and psychological factors, and/or cohort marketing research, which studies groups of people who underwent similar experiences during their formative years.

Regardless of the similarities shared by your target market, keep in mind that many consumers don’t want their personal characteristics or habits rigidly categorized, preferring to feel unique and cared for in a personal way.

The remainder of David Allen’s well-known quote reassures: “When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it ‘done.’”

Certainly, a company’s market research is never done, but initial target market research initiatives can provide personal momentum and bring you close enough to your target to warrant measures that are more expansive (and expensive).

By taking simple steps today toward identifying your target market, you’ll rapidly approach the bullseye of an audience that both desperately wants and has the ability to pay for your product or service.

About The Author

A Lesson On Leadership

The world is focused with gratitude on the incredible underwater rescue of 12 youth soccer players and their 25-year-old coach from a submerged cave in Thailand.

The lead divers who found the team were expert civilian cave divers from Great Britain, whose story is amazing on their own. But it’s also no surprise that the Thai Navy SEALs oversaw the whole operation.

The Thai Navy SEALs trace their history back 50 years, when they were established with the assistance of the precursor of the U.S. Navy SEALs. (There are also U.S. Navy SEAL-inspired units in other countries, including South Korea and the Philippines.)

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With the incredible news that all the members of the team and their coach have been rescued, Bill Murphy Jr. shares seven key, Navy SEAL-inspired tenets to keep in mind to tackle any supposedly impossible challenge in his article entitled “Want to Succeed Against Incredible Odds? 7 Things to Learn From the Navy SEALs,” Every mortgage executive can take a lesson from these tips.

1.) Refuse to believe.

This is the opposite of what you’d think, right? That believing leads to achieving?

In this case, it was about refusing to believe it was an impossible mission, as many others were saying, or even that it would be a success if even some of the boys were rescued.

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2.) Self-sacrifice.

Near the top of this list, we need to recognize that one retired Thai Navy SEAL gave his life in this effort. Everyone involved risked it happening to them, too.

Saman Kunan was 38 years old, an avid trail runner and cycler. He’s being hailed as a national hero in Thailand.

3.) Physical toughness.

We heard a lot about potential technological rescues. Would it be possible to drill down and reach the boys? Even Elon Musk showed up with a quickly built mini-submarine.

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But in the end, it came down to tough, physically fit people who made the grueling multi-hour underwater journey, over and over. I can’t help but see a connection back to the World War II frogmen, who sometimes went into battle with just swim trunks, flippers, a mask, and a knife.

4.) Mental toughness.

I’ve never been anywhere near Navy SEAL training. People who’ve been through it say that while physical toughness is important, mental toughness is far more crucial.

Admiral Bill McRaven, the Navy SEAL who commanded the operation to get Osama bin Laden, talks about how some of the toughest SEALs he knew were a group of physically small men called the Munchkin Crew, who simply “out-paddled, out-ran, and out-swam all the other boat crews.”

5.) Training, training, training.

You’ve heard about U.S. Navy SEAL training. Other countries with SEAL-inspired forces have similarly insane regimens. It all goes back to sweating on the training field to minimize bleeding on the battlefield.

It’s easier to believe things are possible when you’ve done similar things in training before.

6.) Tactical patience.

There’s a big difference between inaction and what we might call “tactical patience.” The former leads to failure, but the latter can lead to success.

The example here would be the decision not to try to wait out the monsoon season for months to get the boys out (as had been suggested), but instead to bring the boys out in small groups over a matter of days.

7.) Practice humility.

The Thai Navy SEALs were the first to try to make it into the cave, and they coordinated the rescue. But they also demonstrated something else: the humility to step back and ask for help from a group of foreign civilians, who had special skills the SEALs didn’t.

The world now knows the names John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, an IT specialist and a retired firefighter by trade, who have been described as “the best cave divers on the planet, nicknamed the “The A Team.”

As former Navy SEAL and author Leif Babin puts it: “No leader has it all figured out. You can’t rely on yourself. You’ve got to rely on other people, so you’ve got to ask for help, you’ve got to empower the team, and you’ve got to accept constructive criticism.”

About The Author

Looking For Investment Money?

A lot of startups and mainstay mortgage technology companies are looking for investors. But how do you attract them? Look to other companies that have been successful and follow their lead.

In the article entitled “Best Pitch Decks: The Early Stage Pitch Decks Of The Hottest Funded Startups” by Alejandro Cremades, he talks about how to create a winning pitch deck that gets your startup funded. Whether you are still at seed stage, or are preparing for a follow up series of funding, a lot of your success is riding on a few slides.

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So, let’s take a look at the early stage pitch decks from some of the hottest companies that have successfully raised big money, and see what we can learn from them.

Uber

Uber has a nice sleek and clean pitch deck, as you’d expect. The deck dives deep into the detail of vehicle types and mile per gallon, all plans that seem to have been left behind after the company got funded. It’s a reminder not to box yourself in with specific strategies and tactics you’ll almost inevitably take a detour on later.

Dollars raised so far: $22B across 18 fundraising rounds

Number of slides in deck: 25

Early investors included: First Round, Benchmark, and Menlo Ventures.

Of special note: At the time Uber created this deck in 2008 it projected the overall market being worth $4.2B annually. It has raised over 5x that in funding.

In May 2018 Uber’s CEO said the company was on track to go IPO in 2019.

WeWork

WeWork may prove to be one of the most underrated companies from its early days. Going beyond simply providing co-working space the company is now in the residential apartment market and education.

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Dollars raised so far: $1.7B

Number of slides in deck: 37

Recent valuation: $20B

Early investors included: Benchmark

Of special note: SEC filings showed that WeWork owed $18B in rent as April 2018

Tinder

For a startup banking on looks to generate big profits (with a little help from gamification) Tinder’s early pitch deck seems to be a bit of an eyesore. Though with 8 billion matches reportedly made on the site so far, it’s a hot app people seem to be addicted to.

Number of slides in deck: 10

Recent valuation: $3B+

Sub-Organization of Match Group

Of special note: The company was originally named Match Box

Snapchat

Their deck was a little meaty and heavy on text for what snap stands for as an app. Yet, the company has undeniably appeared to be one of the fastest growing and an app best loved by celebrities.

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Dollars raised so far: $4.6B+

Number of slides in deck: 14

Early investors included: Lightspeed, Benchmark, IVP.

Of special note: Kylie Jenner is credited with knocking out $1.3B in Snap market value following a negative Tweet about Snap’s new redesign.

Buzzfeed

This deck was used when Buzzfeed had just 700k unique monthly views. Many of which were likely to clickbait content, which the company later took down as it attempted to become a more serious news source.

Dollars raised so far: $500M+

Number of slides in deck: 21

Recent valuation: $1.7B

Early investors included: Hearst, RRE, NEA, and Andreessen Horowitz.

Of special note: Buzzfeed shows off an extensive list of team members in this deck, yet, notes all content at the time was handled by just 2 editors, with a monthly burn rate of $60k.

Foursquare

We don’t hear much about Foursquare anymore, but the founders certainly deserve credit for leveraging its deck into millions of dollars.

Dollars raised so far: $155M+

Number of slides in deck: 15

Recent valuation: $600M+

Early investors included: Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures.

Of special note: Goes beyond basic positioning statements to use competitors as references more than once. It’s good to liken your startup to something investors already know, but be careful that you are actually differentiating yourself and show a need for what you are bringing to market.

Airbnb

Their pitch deck shows a great use of user testimonials and ‘use cases’ on one slide that are easy to understand. Interestingly this deck is far longer than the CEO’s famous one-page business plan to dominate the hospitality space.

Perhaps more amazing is that Airbnb has accomplished all this while technically being illegal, just as Uber was when it started out, and many of today’s cannabis startups were before recent legislation.

Dollars raised so far: $4.4B in thirteen funding rounds

Number of slides in deck: 13

Early investors included: Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners, and Andreessen Horowitz.

Of special note: Airbnb did a great job of highlighting 3 value propositions or problems solved in one simple slide. A feat not normally recommended, unless you want to confuse potential investors.

Why talk about these pitch decks and companies? They all seem to have slide counts falling between 10 and 25 slides. Many of these companies original names changed after they got funded. Like UberCab, AirBed&Breakfast, or Match Box.

Don’t overlook the fact that most of these host companies were born in some of the toughest financial times our country has experienced (2008-2011). They’ve also continually raised money in 4 to 7, or more funding rounds.

None of these pitch decks are perfect, but they worked in conjunction with other factors, like getting in front of the right investors. As you will be able to find with the profiles of investors they onboarded, you will see that very early on they were able to convince top tier investors.

If you’re looking to get funded find the right investors, and with an even better deck you may raise more money, in less time and achieve even more.

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You Need To Know About SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) seems pretty straightforward. You pick a few keywords, and voilà! Your page is optimized for SEO, right? Not yet.

Many people understand the basic principles of SEO, but a lot has changed in the last decade, according to Rachel Leist, in her article entitled “The Definition of SEO in 100 Words or Less.”

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She concludes that the SEO that we know and love today is not the same SEO that we knew and loved (or hated) 10 years ago. And that’s why SEO is something marketers should continue to define, and redefine. Here’s a brief definition in under 100 words:

SEO stands for search engine optimization, that much has stayed the same. It refers to techniques that help your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This makes your website more visible to people who are looking for solutions that your brand, product, or service can provide via search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

What hasn’t stayed the same are the techniques we use to improve our rankings. This has everything to do with the search algorithms that these companies constantly change.

SEO works by optimizing a website’s pages, conducting keyword research, and earning inbound links. You can generally see results of SEO efforts once the webpage has been crawled and indexed by a search engine.

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Looking deeper: There are a ton of ways to improve the SEO of your site pages, though. Search engines look for elements including title tags, keywords, image tags, internal link structure, and inbound links (also known as backlinks). And that’s just to name a few.

Search engines also look at site structure and design, visitor behavior, and other external, off-site factors to determine how highly ranked your site should be in their SERPs.

Organic search refers to someone conducting a search through a search engine and clicking on a non-paid result. Organic search is a search marketing channel that can be used as part of inbound marketing to increase website traffic.

Looking deeper: In present-day SEO, you can’t simply include as many keywords as possible to reach the people who are searching for you. In fact, this will actually hurt your website’s SEO because search engines will recognize it as keyword stuffing, or the act of including keywords specifically to rank for that keyword, rather than to answer a person’s question.

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Nowadays, you should use your keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced. There isn’t a magic number, it all depends on the length of your keyword and article, but if you feel like you’re forcing it, it’s better to ignore it and continue writing naturally.

An SEO marketing strategy is a comprehensive plan to get more visitors to your website through search engines. Successful SEO includes on-page strategies, which use intent-based keywords; and off-page strategies, which earn inbound links from other websites.

Looking deeper: Before you create a new site page or blog post, you’ll probably be thinking about how to incorporate your keywords into your post. That’s alright, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, or even your primary focus. Whenever you create content, your focus should be on the intent of your audience, not how many times you can include a keyword (whether it’s long tail or short tail) in your content.

Organic traffic is unpaid traffic that comes from search engines such as Google or Bing. Paid search marketing does not increase your organic traffic numbers, but you can optimize your website using inbound marketing software to gain more visitors.

Looking deeper: One of the biggest changes in the last decade is the way other user behaviors shape the SERPs a user sees on search engines. And today, social media can have a big impact on your organic traffic trend line. Even just a few years ago, it didn’t make a difference who was finding your content through social search. But now SEO takes into account tweets, retweets, Google+ authorship, and other social signals.

Social search also prioritizes content and people that are connected to you. That could mean through a Facebook friend, Twitter follower, or connection through another social network. Sometimes social search will even prioritize content that has been shared by an influencer. Social search understands that you may be interested in content that your network feels is important to share, and therefore it’ll often get surfaced to you.

This all means when you’re thinking about your SEO strategy, you need to think about how your social media strategy fits into the puzzle, too.

Direct traffic consists of website visitors that come to your website by typing the URL into their browser, rather than coming from another website, a search engine, or social media.

Looking deeper: Think of search engine optimization as “search experience optimization.” It’s not just important for your users to find your website, it’s important for them to stay on your website, interact with your content, and come back later. Direct traffic doesn’t just increase your “page authority” in the eyes of Google; it creates more opportunities to turn someone, who first discovered you organically, into a customer.

SEO actually takes into account whether or not your visitors are staying on your website and engaging with other content. If you rank well for a keyword and attract a visitor who isn’t relevant, it won’t actually help your website.

Think about your visitors and the content they are looking for more than how many people you can attract to your website.

SEO is important because it helps people find information and discover pages on the world wide web. SEO is especially important for businesses as it ensures they’re answering their audience’s biggest questions on search engines, while driving traffic to their products and services.

Looking deeper: In the past, SEO success was measured by whether or not you were ranked high on the first page of Google. But even if you ranked well for a term, does that actually mean you’re going to see results?

Not always. You might rank really well for terms that aren’t ideal for your business. So you appear high on search engines, get a ton of traffic, but then your website visitors realize your company isn’t what they were looking for. You don’t convert customers from this traffic, and ranking high for this particular keyword is essentially fruitless.

Also, you don’t necessarily need to be in the top three slots to be successful. In fact, if you rank well on subsequent pages, you may still have a high click-through-rate. That’s great news for marketers who can’t seem to bring pages into those top slots or off the second page.

We said it before and we’ll say it again: The amount of traffic to your page is less important than how qualified that traffic is.

SEO can cost between $100 and $500 per month if you do it yourself with a keyword research tool. It can cost between $75 and $150 per hour for a consultant, and up to $10,000 per month if you hire a full-service marketing agency. Small businesses generally spend less on SEO than big brands, but they can still get the same or better results if they focus on SEO and align with experts that can help them along.

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Don’t Slack Off Now

It’s tempting to slack off during the dog days of summer, but content marketing doesn’t take a vacation. If you want top dog results, the time to assess your efforts is now.

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According to John Hall, in his article “This Is the Perfect Time of Year to Assess Your Content,” summer is the perfect time to kick back, hang at the pool, and leave behind any worries you might have about the future of marketing.

Even if your audience members take time off for travel of their own, summer doesn’t mean you get a free pass on your content. While you keep doing what you’re doing and just wait for the next budget cycle to make any real changes to your content strategy, your competitors are building their brands and climbing to the top of your audiences’ minds.

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Content is a dynamic part of your marketing strategy. You’re going to need to check up on your performance and make tweaks to your plan more than once a year, and summer is a great time to assess your efforts and correct course if you need to.

By now, you should have at least a full quarter’s worth of data on your content marketing strategy to review. You should know how close you are to achieving the goals you set and which areas have presented the biggest challenges so far.

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Not only do you have enough usable data, but you also have a competitive advantage when it comes to getting your content published.

Online editors across industries and niches need more contributed content in June, July, and August than almost any other time of year. You can meet editors’ needs, engage your audience members, and contribute to your goals, all at the same time, if your strategy is set up correctly.

And if those aren’t reasons enough to keep up with your content and assess your plan, ask yourself: Would you rather know whether your content is effective now or when it’s budget time and you don’t have the results you need to lock in those dollars?

Content strategies rely on a lot of moving parts, and actually assessing your effectiveness can be challenging, especially if you don’t have anything to guide you through it.

To get started making changes that can impact your company for the rest of the year, follow these three tips:

1.) Retrace Your Steps

Go back to your original strategy and the goals you set. What metrics did you say you would track? How are you doing on that front so far?

Maybe your goal is lead generation. Did you meet your lead gen goal for the quarter? Or are you creating lots of content without seeing many leads? You could have seen good social shares this quarter and grown your Twitter following by 20 percent, but did your content actually help you reach the lead gen goal you set for it? Start by comparing your performance to the goal you want to reach.

2.) Diversify Your Content

Company blogs play a vital role in any content strategy, but if you lean on your blog to do all the work of a diverse content mix, it’ll be nearly impossible to see the results you want.

Content is a toolbox, and you have so many tools at your disposal: blog posts, sure, but also press mentions, email marketing, guest posts, and more. Your blog can’t do it all alone. Great content strategies use different types of content for different goals, so consider what you’ve tried so far and whether it’s actually working, then test adding new content deliverables to amplify your results.

3.) Stretch Your Work Further

Developing content is one thing, but using it properly is a whole other animal. Are you distributing your content and building links? Do you have a plan for how to go from content production to increased revenue or brand awareness? Do you have the tools you need to scale?

Don’t stop at content generation. Put in the work to expand the reach of your content. From paid amplification to email marketing to SEO audits, invest in your content to get the maximum return on your investment.

Marketers have a responsibility to keep an eye on their content’s performance all year, but summer is an especially good time to dig deep. Use the data you’ve collected, identify the gaps in your approach, and correct course for a more effective strategy throughout the rest of the year.

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The Right Way To Win The Deal

Regardless of who you’re selling to, lenders, servicers or the borrower, you have to have a clear strategy and you have to execute. That’s essential. But even before that, famed consultant Jill Konrath challenges people in her article “The Experience of You” that you should start by asking yourself: Would you buy something from yourself?

Konrath goes further to say that you should imagine yourself as someone who’s always involved in the buying decision for your product/service. Here’s the scenario: You’re busy. Really busy. You’ve been in meetings all morning and by lunchtime you’re already two hours behind schedule.

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Grabbing a quick sandwich and chips at the vending machine, you sit down at your desk to try to catch up while you eat. Forty-two new emails sit in your inbox awaiting your response. A quick scan shows nothing requiring an immediate reply.

Checking voicemail, you hear that you have seven messages piled up. Since you’re expecting an important call, you’re forced to listen to each one. But your attention span is short. If the caller doesn’t pique your interest right away, they’re bleeped.

Right after lunch, you’re meeting with a salesperson that somehow managed to get on your calendar. You look at the work piled on your desk. There’s enough there to keep you busy for two weeks if you had nothing else to do but finish it.

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Your stomach wretches with the dread of another non-productive meeting. You have no patience for sellers who ask trite questions to which they should already know the answer.

You don’t want to hear about their products or service. Nor do you want to add any more complexity or change to what you’re already doing—even for just a short while. You can’t keep up as it is.

That’s the reality facing most buyers today.

If you’re like most sellers, your approach is creating your own problems. If you’ve been in sales for a long time, you’re likely using the same strategies and techniques you learned long ago. If you’re new to sales, you’re likely being trained on skills that worked just a few short years ago but are no longer effective.

Sales success today requires you to be distinct or face becoming extinct. In The Experience Economy, authors Pine and Gilmore write that future economic growth lies in the value of experiences and transformations. An interesting thought to ponder. What relevance could it possibly have for people who sell?

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The truth is that every interaction you have with prospective customers is either a positive or a negative experience—never neutral. If your prospect feels they received value from your interaction, you get a second chance. If not, you’re out.

Sharing information about your product or service contributes virtually nothing to the value equation. It’s assumed that you will say only good things about your offering.

Additionally, buyers perceive that what you sell is nearly identical to your competitors – whether you think it is or not. As far as they’re concerned, everything is a commodity or soon will be.

Rich and compelling experiences are created by sellers who recognize the shift that’s taken place in the market. They study their prospect’s business problems and goals. They constantly search for information that their prospects would find valuable.

When they talk with their prospects, they bring along ideas and insights into what’s happening in the marketplace, with their prospect’s customers or with their competitors. They challenge their customer’s paradigm of what it takes to be successful and get them thinking.

These “experiences” don’t just happen serendipitously. You have to immerse yourself in your prospect’s business, market segment, industry and more. You need to continually be asking, “How can I help my customers achieve their goals or solve their problems?”

As a person who sells, your job is to orchestrate this rich and compelling experience. You can’t leave it up to happenstance.

Authors Pine and Ginsmore further advocate that customers should pay for this “experience.” With that in mind, I’ll leave you with one final thought:

Would your prospects willingly pay $500 for an hour of your time?

Think about that each time you meet with a potential buyer and make it happen. Your competitors won’t stand a chance.

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