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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.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

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.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

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.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

A Time To Listen

Many times we think we have all the answers, or at least that we know what we’re doing. However, it always helps to get some outside advice. In the article “The Power of an Outside Voice” by Jon Gordon, he shares a story about an interaction that he had with a top CEO.

The CEO said, “We brought you here to reinforce our message. Our folks get tired of hearing us say it but when it comes from an outside voice it’s new, fresh and exciting.”

Jon knew exactly what that CEO was talking about.

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Even though he is brought in to speak to some of the biggest names in sports and business his kids have little interest in hearing what he has to say.

Besides having his kids read his books and writing inspirational messages on whiteboards in their rooms, Jon resorted to outside voices to reinforce the message and principles he want to share with them.

Jon has found coaches, tutors, mentors, experts, etc. to encourage, coach, teach, push and bring out the best in his children.

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Jon also give his children books to read and shared inspiring YouTube videos and messages from role models such as Mo Isom, Daniel Rodriguez, Erwin McManus, Alexis Jones, Eric Thomas, Bailey Obrien and other inspirational people.

There’s something about the power of an outside voice and I want to encourage you to use outside voices to share and reinforce important principles and messages with your team at work and at home.

I will do all I can do to support you by continuing to write articles, give talks and provide even more free resources to be an outside voice for you and others. I know it’s my purpose and I’m glad to be of help.

NexLevel Advisors is a strategic business advisory firm that assists companies in growing their businesses more quickly and strategically than they could by themselves. We are passionate about taking your business and people to the next level by differentiating your company and its unique offerings.

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Our customized solutions help you to sell more, more frequently, to more people by clearly establishing your specific value propositions. This is where real world experience, strategy and execution deliver measurable results for your organization.

In the end, there are many outside voices out there and I encourage you to find the right people and resources to share with your work team and ask family members, neighbors, friends, teachers and mentors to encourage and teach your children and team at home. This philosophy is so great that it will help you with your work life and your home life.

There’s the power of an outside voice and you can start tapping into one today!

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Let’s Do This Right

Now is the time to think about holistic marketing. Why? We all know that the current mortgage market has its challenges. But that’s no reason to give up. Now is the time to hone your marketing so you are the company of choice.

In the article entitled “The Best of B2B Marketing Content: 10 Examples” written by Meghan Keaney Anderson, she says that many B2B marketers have seen B2C content at least once and asked, “Why do they get to have all the fun?” But the moments like the one we described above are the ones that remind us: B2B companies are just as passionate about their products as B2C companies are. And for every B2B product, there are even more B2B users out there looking for information, inspiration, and knowledge to provide them with solutions.

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So, what’s the point? No marketing, including content, is uninteresting if you look at it certain ways. Done right, B2B content marketing can certainly match — and sometimes, maybe even rival — the creativity and appeal of the best B2C ones. Here are some tips:

Remember Your Buyer’s Goals

When you’re dying to create truly unique, cutting-edge content, it’s easy to stray from your organization’s mission and focus. So, while it’s great to think outside of the box, use clever subject lines, or even write every email with an overarching humorous tone, keep it relevant and include the information that the people reading it signed up to receive in the first place. Then, keep it human.

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Educate Your Buyers

Think about the problems that your product or service already aims to solve for customers. Then, turn that into relevant content that’s going to both save time for and inform your audience, and make it easy for them to access it.

Grow With Your Buyers

When you begin to brainstorm and map out ideas for content, ask yourself, “Do I really understand my audience?” If you have any doubts as to how the idea will benefit or be useful to your audience, the answer might be “no” — and that’s okay. Like everything else, audiences (and people) evolve, so it’s okay to go back to the drawing board in instances like these for a refresh.

Diversify Your Channels

The Internet is only going to become more crowded. And as the human attention span dwindles, that makes it even more important to create content that engages and maintains your audience’s attention.

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So while we don’t recommend abandoning blogs completely, after all, written content is still vital to SEO, we do emphasize the importance of diversifying content formats. Marketers who incorporate video into their content strategies, for example, have seen 49% faster revenue growth than those who don’t. And remember that tip to “keep it human” we mentioned earlier? That’s a great thing about live video in particular, it can help portray brands (and their people) as candid and genuine.

Work With Thought Leaders

If you’ve ever wondered how to leverage the wealth of knowledge outside of your organization, and inside your professional network, here’s a great example.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the entrepreneurs and leaders you’ve met, or simply just admire, to figure out how they can work with you to create content with teachable experiences that your audience will value. Sharing useful, relatable first-hand accounts conveys empathy, which helps to invoke trust among readers.

Publish Off-Domain Content

Take advantage of the availability of off-site content platforms. As my colleague, Sam Mallikarjunan, writes in “Why Medium Works,” it can take up to six months of consistent publishing on your company’s blog before it gains significant traction. (And we’re not discouraging that, stick with it, and find ways to supplement those efforts.) But off-site content diversifies your audience by engaging readers who might not have otherwise found your website.

Medium, for example, connects your content with the people most likely to read it. Plus, you’re creating a publication on a platform that comes with a built-in audience of at least 6.3 million users.

Incorporate Visual Content

Please, please, please don’t neglect to incorporate visuals into your content strategy. Of course, having a presence on visually-focused channels like Instagram and YouTube is vital, but when it comes to your written content, don’t afraid to use visuals there, as well. After all, articles with an image once every 75-100words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.

But if you can also create content that aligns with the core of your product or service, that’s also great. For example, Wistia creates visual content technology, so it makes sense that it would have unique visual content. Identify what your business does particularly well, and then make the most use of the channel that best aligns with your strengths.

Tell Your Brand Story

Dig beneath the surface of the solutions your company provides. You offer solutions, but what is your process? What have you learned that makes you do what you do so well, and how did you get there?

Sure, topics like engineering might be traditionally “unsexy.” But when leveraged and communicated in a storytelling manner, they can make for remarkable content.

Challenge Your Buyers

It’s easy to feel limited by your medium as you create content, especially for a business audience who you’ve all agreed is comfortable with that medium.

But in order for content to convert readers and incite growth, it needs to occasionally disrupt its audience’s point of view. A company doesn’t work for its content; content works for its company. If you need to say something that a blog alone can’t, the business demands that you make it work, whether that means starting a YouTube channel or seeing how you can integrate an AR tool into your next ebook.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Listen Up

When you think about it, a lot of times technology vendors sell lenders their technology based on features or functionality. And lenders try to sell borrowers with loan products. That’s not the right approach. Why? In most cases those items are not what really differentiate you as a technology provider or a lender.

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Conversely, what should be a differentiator for you should be your brand. In the article entitled “How Branding Can Help Your Customers Choose Your Business” written by Alex Schnee, he notes that when you are looking for new ways to encourage customers to find your business and be excited about what you do, you might need to take a look at how you are choosing to brand yourself. Branding might seem like something that you don’t really need to do in order to find success as a company, but you would be surprised to know how much it can end up helping you.

Here are some ways you might want to reconsider your brand and the type of audience you are reaching.

Branding targets customers

Do you know exactly who you want to attract as a customer and why? It’s not always easy to describe your ideal client unless you’ve taken some time to brand yourself properly and to know what type of customer would be attracted to your product or service. By developing a brand, you’re taking the time to know who you are reaching and why, what your buyer’s habits are, and how you can best market to those who will deliver results.

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Branding creates a recognizable image

Most companies that do well are ones that stand out a bit from the crowd. Either they have taken the time to differentiate themselves from the competition in the market, or they are seen as the top competitor. When you can easily recognize a logo or a business model, then a company is already one step ahead in terms of marketing and being competitive on the market. Having a recognizable face as a business can bring in new customers because they are already aware of your reputation.

Branding can create your marketing strategy

If you’ve had trouble putting together a comprehensive marketing strategy for your business, then it might be time to consider whether you are getting the message across through your branding. Your strategy should be based around what you are trying to convey with your brand and the types of customers that you want to reach. This can mean investing in better content, advertising, and the use of social media in order to achieve what you want.

Branding can create reputation

Some of the biggest names in several industries do not necessarily create better products than their competitors, but they do have a reputation to rest on. When customers know what to expect from your business, you are creating a brand name that has a connotation of caring for clients. Consistency tends to be key when you want to develop a brand that customers feel like they can rely on. Reputation can either make or break a business, so it’s in every company’s best interest to foster a positive one and to take the time to use branding as a tool for creating a quality reputation that will last.

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Branding deserves time and effort and evaluation of how you can approach new customer. Because it is such an essential part of a business and how you choose to market yourself, sitting down and developing a strategy can go a long way toward creating repeat and consistent business in the long run.

At NexLevel Advisors, we help clients all the time with branding so they can succeed in this mortgage market. When you think about your brand, Laura Lake points out that there is a lot of confusion around branding in her article entitled “Learn Why Branding Is Important In Marketing.” If you think about it, there are multiple definitions, so what is branding? Decades ago branding was defined as a name, slogan, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these elements that identify products or services of a company. The brand was identified of the elements that differentiated the goods and or service from the competition.

Today brand is a bit more complex, but even more important in today’s world of marketing.

It’s the perception that a consumer has when they hear or think of your company name, service or product. That being said the word “brand” or “branding” is a moving target and evolves with the behavior of consumers, I think of it as the mental picture of who you as a company represents to consumers, it’s influenced by the elements, words, and creativity that surround it.

What Should a Brand Do?

Branding is not only about getting your target market to select you over the competition but about getting your prospects to see you as the sole provider of a solution to their problem or need.

The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:

>>Clearly, delivers the message

>>Confirms your credibility

>>Emotionally connects your target prospects with your product and or service

>>Motivates the buyer to buy

>>Creates User Loyalty

To succeed in branding, you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects.

A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all, your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer.

Your brand is a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without. Branding is strategic and marketing is tactical and what you use to get your brand in front of consumers. That’s why it carries a great deal of importance within a business or organization as well.

Brand serves as a guide to understanding the purpose of business objectives. It enables you to align a marketing plan with those objectives and fulfill the overarching strategy.

The effectiveness of brand doesn’t just happen before the purchase, but it’s also about the life of the brand of the experience it gives a consumer.

Did the product or service perform as expected? Was the quality as good as promised or better? How was the service experience? If you can get positive answers to these questions, you’ve created a loyal customer.

Branding can be confusing, so how do you know if your brand is strong enough to give you the internal and external value that you need in your marketing?

>>Does your brand relate to your target audience? Will they instantly “get it” without too much thought?

>>Does your brand share the uniqueness of what you offer and why it’s important?

>>Does it reflect the brand promise that you are making to who you are targeting as well as to your internal audience?

>>Does your brand reflect the values that you want to represent as a customer?

Let these questions serve as a guideline in the development of your brand.  If the answers are not clear you may want to return to the drawing board and refine the branding process.  A brand should be an instant “ah-ha” it should require very little thought and contemplation.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Get Engagement

How do you win in the current mortgage market? You have to get your client and prospects engaged. How do you do that? Good content is one way.

In the article “These Master Copywriters Share How to Go From Being a Good Copywriter to a Great Consultant” written by Margo Aaron, she shares some tips. She first reports that The Copywriter Club is resurrecting the lost art of engagement by cultivating community online and off. Here’s how they’re doing it:

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Recently, Kira Hug and Rob Marsh have managed to do the impossible. They resurrected the lost art of engaged Facebook groups, launched a successful podcast, and cultivated a community of over seven thousand copywriters launching and growing businesses.

The Copywriter Club, or TCC as they’re known by insiders, has quickly grown into one of the most engaged communities of direct response copywriters on the Internet.

Recently, 75 of them gathered in a small room at Hotel 50 Bowery in Chinatown where they kicked off the first annual TCC IRL Event. The who’s-who of the copy world showed up to support the event, share copy secrets, and swap war stories on how to create copywriting success.

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Against their better judgment, Kira and Rob let some take a peek behind the curtain at what they created and share what was learned with you fine folks. Here’s what you missed at the TCC event in Manhattan.

For decades, copywriters have claimed you can find success by being the “hired gun” that jumps from client to client, beats the control, and collects royalties from her chateau in France. Turns out, that model doesn’t work anymore.

Speakers joked that a control barely lasts 14 minutes nowadays, where it used to last months. Today, it’s about being the entrepreneur, advisor, and expert inside of a client’s business, as much as it is about copy that converts.

Brian Kurtz, a “titan” of direct response, drove that point home when he reminded the crowd of the 40/40/20 rule. Forty percent of your success comes from your list, 40% comes from your offer, and 20% comes from your copy. Which is a particularly bold rule to underscore at a copy event.

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“Go to a list of people who REALLY want your offer with [expletive] copy and I bet you make a sale.” Mmmmhmm. The man knows a thing or two about sales.

There were also honest conversations about whether JV partnerships are worth it, when to raise your rates, why “not segmenting” is the biggest mistake you can make, what to do about lapsed list engagement, and lots of other nerdy fun DR copy things. Like these:

>>Copyhackers founder Joanna Wiebe reminded the crowd that “our job is to make them decide” after hitting us with the sobering statistic that 60% of sales are lost to apathy and indecision.

>>Talking Shrimp founder, Laura Belgray, warned attendees of the dangers of being the “drunk uncle” – the guy who shows up out-of-the-blue and asks for money.

>>Copy and content maven Hillary Weiss taught attendees why personal branding actually matters and has palpable business consequences. “Your business is what you do. Your branding is how you differentiate yourself from everyone else.”

>>Abbey Woodcock, copy and conversion whisperer proved that nailing a client’s “voice” is not a unicorn quality like I’ve always thought. Apparently, anyone can do it (and she showed attendees how).

>>Copy juggernaut Parris Lampropoulos took attendees back to the basics when he explained, “practice makes permanent, not perfect.” And advocated for a community or mentors who could provide feedback, course correction, and critiquing (the good kind. Not the fluffy kind).

While the content was solid, the best part of the conference was what happened between and after the presentations: The community.

The event brought together an incredible blend of beginners and masters bonded by their mutual affection for this obscure industry they’ve all arrived at by accident. The connections made and opportunities created at this event mirrored what Kira and Rob have successfully created online (only, it was IRL).

They curated dinners, encouraged joint lunches, and facilitated introductions that will no doubt launch careers, expand businesses, and foster a community of quality direct response copywriters for decades to come.

So, what’s the takeaway for the mortgage industry? You have to network in a meaningful way online and offline. Our industry loves LinkedIn. In fact, it’s where most Fortune 500 decision-makers and executives like to spend their spare time. The best part?

More often than not, they’re actually scrolling through actively looking for valuable content to read. There isn’t the same barrier you need to break down like on other social platforms like Facebook. They’re not there to find Buzzfeed quizzes, wedding photos, or memes. They’re looking for content that can change the way they do business, which is most definitely music to the ears of a B2B marketer.

According to Business Insider Intelligence, TechCrunch and Fortune, LinkedIn has officially crossed the half-billion user mark back in 2017. Since they were founded in 2002, they’ve continued to grow their user base year after year.

LinkedIn’s monthly active user based reached 260 million back in March 2017. That’s almost 2.5x the 106 million monthly active users last reported in 2016. This number comes from research conducted by web usage company Apptopia and has not been confirmed by LinkedIn.

Of those using the platform monthly, up to 40% are accessing it on a daily basis. If that is the case, that’s over 100 million professionals you could be targeting every single day. To make that even more excited, LinkedIn users typically use the platform to find relevant content, meaning they’ll be much more willing to check out what you’re sharing.

From a B2B perspective, the decision-makers you’re trying to reach are using LinkedIn. If you double down on your LinkedIn efforts, you’ll be able to target the right people in the place they like to spend their scrolling time.

Also, Mobile is booming and LinkedIn’s mobile user numbers reflect that. Their mobile user count is climbing every month, which only makes it easier to reach the people you’re trying to reach. Mobile makes it easier for a user to just open the app and scroll through, giving you more opportunities to reach them.

The big takeaway is that mortgage companies should utilize the services of experts to help them better engage clients and prospects, which for our industry in particular, should include a solid LinkedIn strategy.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Getting Your Team To Succeed

No one person makes a business successful. It takes a team. However, you have to encourage that team to work as hard as possible to ensure the company’s overall success.

How do you do that? In the article entitled “5 Ways to Motivate Your Team” by Jon Gordon, he says you won’t find Motivation 101 in most business schools; yet, the ability to motivate one’s team and organization is one of the most important skill you must possess today.

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Now, more than ever, a leader and manager’s job is to motivate and rally his or her team through challenging times. You can’t outsource motivation. It is the leader and manager who must motivate. That’s why I often say motivational speeches don’t work but leaders who motivate do.

Many leaders want to take the emotion out of business but that is a huge mistake. When fear and negativity are the primary emotions people in your organization are feeling, you have to counter that with an even more powerful emotion, like faith, belief, and optimism. And your success in that depends on your ability to motivate. In this spirit here are five strategies to motivate your team to get the results you want.

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1.) Don’t be too busy to communicate. Uncertainty breeds negativity if there is a void in communication. Unless managers and leaders fill this void with clear and positive communication, people will assume the worst and act accordingly. Don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of taking the time to talk with your team.

2.) Lead with optimism. The engine for America’s growth and prosperity has always been its can-do attitude and spirit. Unfortunately, in the past few years optimism has been in short supply. The most important weapon against pessimism is to transfer your optimism and vision to others. Leadership is a transfer of believe and your belief inspires others to think and act in ways that drive results.

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3.) Share the vision. It’s not enough to just be optimistic. You must give your team and organization something to be optimistic about. Talk about where you have been, where you are, and where you are going. Share your plan for a brighter and better future, talk about the actions you must take, and constantly reiterate the reasons why you will be successful. Create a vision statement that inspires and rallies your team and organization. Not a page-long vision statement filled with buzzwords, but a rallying cry that means something to the people who invest a majority of their day working for you. This vision statement can’t just exist on a piece of paper. It must come to life in the hearts and minds of your team So it’s up to you to share it, reinforce it, and inspire your people to live and breathe it every day. A positive vision for the future leads to powerful actions today.

4.) Relationships build real motivation. It’s much easier to motivate someone if you know them and they know you. After all, if you don’t take the time to get to know the people who are working for you, then how can you ever truly know the best way to lead, coach, and motivate them effectively?

5.) Create purpose-driven goals. Real motivation is driven by purpose and a desire to make a difference. When people feel as though the work they do is playing an integral role in the overall success of the team and organization and the world, they are motivated to work harder. Great teams don’t work for a paycheck. They work for each other and a bigger purpose.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Facts You Need To Know

Now the mortgage industry is changing. So, in order to be successful, you have to change, as well. You have to market better. How do you do that?

According to the article “16 Important Facts All Marketers Should Know for 2018” written by Amy Balliett, the world of content marketing is always evolving, but these 16 stats will help you create a content calendar for 2018 that will get you ahead of the competition.

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As 2017 is now behind us, savvy content marketers are: visiting content past, present, and future. Huddled together around the light of their computer screens, they will dissect the past twelve everything that they did in 2017 to identify what marketing tactics worked and what didn’t.

As they count their remaining budgets they will plan last minute content pushes, hopeful to get another win. But a visit to content future will be the most important part of their journey. Will they see a future filled with success and happiness, or will they refuse to adapt and find themselves buried in a grave of dead tactics?

To avoid finding yourself 6-feet deep in a grave of dead content, consider the lessons that arise from these 16 facts about content marketing:

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Marketers that plan to invest in unique, high-quality content will see a lot of wins this year. Counterparts that rely too heavily on templates or low-cost services, which often prioritize quantity and speed over quality, will likely lose traction this year as a result. The following five trends back up this claim:

1.) According to Hubspot, a whopping 80 percent of consumers prefer custom, original content over canned solutions.

2.) The recent Content Marketing Institute 2017 Benchmarks Report found that 85 percent of content marketers attribute their 2017 success to developing custom, quality content throughout the year.

But quality content isn’t cheap…

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3.) The same report suggests that B2B Marketers who spent at least 39 percent of their budgets on custom content in 2017 saw the most success.

4.) B2B marketers that spent at least 38 percent of their budgets on the same level of content saw equal success.

If you are spending less than most marketers, consider adjusting your budget for 2018. And while you’re at it, focus on personalizing your content as much as possible. This heightens your level of quality while positioning your brand for greater success in the New Year.

5.) Gartner suggests that businesses focused on personalized marketing in 2018 could outsell their competitors by 20 percent

Moving on, with video, it’s all about the simple economic theory of supply and demand. As demand for video increases, the supply of online videos like motion graphics must go up to meet the expectations of today’s consumers. For marketers, it’s important to understand just how strong that demand is so that they can invest more of their budgets into the right types of video in the New Year. The next seven statistics should drive your video marketing efforts in 2018:

According to Cisco, an expected 79 to 84 percent of online consumer traffic will be video traffic in 2018.

6.) Hubspot’s 2017 Video Benchmark Report suggests that successful businesses release an average of 18 videos each month to keep up with demand.

7.) According to Hubspot, 80 percent of customers prefer to watch an explainer video above all other content types to learn about a brand, product, or service.

8.) And if you’re marketing to executives, then video is even more powerful with The Economist suggesting that 85 percent of executives prefer watching a video above all other content types when learning about a product or service.

9.) When considering what types of video to produce, there are three categories you should focus on: personalized videos, motion graphics, and livestream.

10.) According to Livestream.com, 82 percent of people prefer to watch a livestream video delivered from a brand versus viewing a traditional social post from that same brand.

But animated motion graphics continue to be the most popular option because they are more affordable to produce for marketers and offer more engaging storytelling experiences for audiences. Motion graphics also make producing personalized videos easier, which is important for marketers hoping to boost conversion rates in 2018.

11.) According to Vidyard, personalized videos can increase open rates 16 times more than standard videos.

12.) Vidyard also suggests that personalized videos grow click-through rates by 450 percent.

While video is the most popular choice for visual content marketing this year, other forms of visual content should be considered to drive further success. The remaining four statistics should help you convince coworkers and clients alike to focus on creative visual content:

13.) According to reports from Forbes and Deloitte, 71 percent of key decision makers prefer short case studies spanning three to four pages with plenty of visuals breaking up the content.

14.) Blogs that break up their content with images see 650 times the engagement of those that don’t according to Adobe.

15.) Statista predicts that there will be at least 171 million active virtual reality users in 2018

16.) Techcrunch reports that augmented reality will see the most demand with nearly 70 percent of consumers believing that AR will be highly beneficial for them this year and beyond.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Use Content To Get New Business

Everyone wants to succeed in 2018. How do you make that possible? One way is content marketing. In the article “How To Move Customers to Buy With Content Marketing” by John White he says that solid content marketing strategy is critical to your company’s success.

How do we make more sales? Companies everywhere are asking themselves this most basic yet fundamental question as the new year approaches.

Consumers are greater informed, and they have more choices on how to spend their money than ever. Getting them to buy your product or service takes some serious skill.

To get them to buy, you need to move them to take action.

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Your content should be attractive to get people’s attention. This can be achieved by having eye-catching visuals in your content. Another way to do it is by crafting a show-stopping headline that will make them stop scrolling and click.

Then, to keep their attention, your content must be compelling, and it needs to educate the buyer about something new and exciting. People love to learn. If your content lacks value and is nothing more than a pitch, it will turn most buyers off.

Buyers want to make a connection with the companies they do business with. So humanize your brand with your content whenever possible. Use storytelling with real examples of how your product or service solves actual problems and improves lives.

Research over the years has consistently shown that emotional response has more influence on buyer’s behavior than the claims made within the content. In other words, if people aren’t feeling it, they’re not buying.

Your content should make buyers begin to envision themselves using your product or service. This is a critical step, and if you don’t get past it, you won’t make a sale.

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Next, consumers want to know how the product or service gets delivered to them. If you are selling a furniture set and part of the visual people get when envisioning buying is them spending their entire weekend assembling it, they will not be moved to buy. Make sure that your content reassures buyers that the setup will be quick and easy, and that it won’t cause significant disruption to their lives!

Buyer advocacy is one of the best ways to get others to make a purchase. Encourage your existing customers to comment on your content. We all know that FOMO (fear of missing out) is a massive trigger for buyers these days. When your existing customers comment, it validates the claims made within your content.

While price alone is not enough to make people buy these days, they do want to feel like they are getting a good offer. Your content should make the buyer feel like they are spending their hard-earned money wisely.

Remember, there are lots of places people can buy. You don’t want to warm them up to the idea of buying your product or service only to have them shop around because the offer you presented did not make them feel good about spending their money.

Your offer should have a little bit of scarcity associated it with it. In other words, after consuming your content, buyers should feel like your company is the industry-leading expert and they can’t get exactly what you are offering them anywhere else.

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Always be thinking about SEO with your content marketing. Create content that is written for SEO using strategic keywords placement within the content that buyers are likely to use when they do a search online. When someone goes to Google or Bing, they have intent and an expressed interest in your product or service.

Creating fresh content that tells your company’s story is the best way to connect with buyers in today’s market. Your content marketing is what makes your business discoverable on the Internet, and getting it right is vital to your success.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.