Get Your Content Shared

In the article entitled “20 ideas for content that readers want to share” by Gina Dietrich, she says that it’s not easy to have consistently fresh blog content that people want to read and share. She’s right. That’s why a content development process is essential. You must create content to answer the questions your prospects and clients ask, and that content should be tied to keywords so, when they Google their questions, you pop up in search results.

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However, let’s say you’ve exhausted your list of questions that are asked—and you’re not feeling creative on priority keywords or phrases. How do you handle that? The truth is, when you blog consistently, you begin to see ideas in everything: what you read, TV you watch, even in discussions with your peers, clients or friends. My friends know when my notebook comes out, parts of our dinner conversation are probably going to be published (I always ask permission so there are no surprises).

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Still, every writer experiences writers’ block every now and then. Here are 20 tips to help you through your next dry spell:

1. Subscribe to SmartBrief.

The SmartBrief newsletters aggregate blog content every day (at least 10 articles) around one topic, such as entrepreneurship or social media. Pick a topic that you care about and have fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.

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2. Subscribe to Talkwalker Alerts.

A replacement for Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts are even better, provide more relevant results and are free. This will give you plenty of really good story ideas just from scanning those every day.

3. Read the comments.

If you have an active community on your blog or on one a social networks, read the comments. You will get story ideas just from what people say, such as perspectives you hadn’t yet considered.

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4. Pay attention to current events.

There is almost always something happening in the news that you can comment on for your industry.

5. Go through your sent mail.

Go through your sent mail to see what types of things you’ve sent to customers, prospects and vendors that could be used for content. Most communicators write emails to explain a sales process, a feature or benefit or an organization’s thinking. Use those emails to publish non-proprietary information online.

6. Create a trends manifesto.

You’ll find this happening in the blogosphere every year, beginning in October and running through January. Many organizations will publish their thoughts on the trends they expect to hit the industry in the next year or identify three words people will use to drive their success. The trends manifesto provides you with an opportunity to shine as a leader in your industry.

7. Connect to pop culture.

Lots of really successful content creators take current events, like a Royal baby or new Marvel movie, and provide lessons related to their field.

8. Open a debate.

When you disagree with other voices on the web, you might not feel “safe” to voice a differing opinion. However, this can be a missed opportunity. Giving people an opportunity to see two sides of something can work really well when executed carefully.

9. Identify positive progress.

Even though people love good train wrecks, they also want to know how companies in an industry are doing things well. Interview organizations in your industry and highlight the good things they’re doing through your blog content.

10. Take lessons from missteps.

It’s no surprise the bad case studies are shared over and over and over again. When you create your content, think about what you can add to the conversation with specific lessons for your industry or niche?

11. Avoid personal attacks.

If you can figure out how to write about an industry train wreck without attacking a person, it’s going to be pretty popular. It grabs attention and makes people want to read, comment and share.

12. Make a list.

People love lists. So much information coming at consumers these days, and lists make it easier to scan and read quickly. If you integrate lists into your blog content, you’ll find they quickly become some of the most shared posts on your site.

13. Offer free stuff.

People also love giveaways. It might be a book a friend has written, a collection of free eBooks or your own writing. Doing this helps you begin to qualify prospects.

14. Rank a competition.

The organization Run, Walk, Ride puts together a list of the charities that raise the most money every year. They highlight the ones you’d expect, but also show how well some of the up-and-comers are doing. It’s a win because they’re highlighting their peers (and competitors) and driving significant new-customer traffic to their site.

15. Identify and reward superlatives.

Just like People produces its “sexiest man alive” issue, you can do the same for your niche. It might be an app of the month or a productivity tool. Think about what your readers would benefit from knowing more about and start compiling lists of favorites.

16. Review a book.

If there is a classic must-read in your industry, doing something as simple as summing up the key points or penning a review can give you some easily shareable content. As a bonus, you might spark a conversation in the comments.

17. Go on a rant.

Get people riled up about something and give them something to rally behind. Everyone has a pet peeve or two—and you might find others who are ready to join you in your righteous crusade.

18. Interview industry experts.

Interviews work well because you’re giving people access to someone they wouldn’t otherwise meet. It could be the big keynote speaker at your industry’s annual conference, or someone you respect or admire. This can also work for formats other than the written word.

19. Answer a “Question of the Week.”

Let people ask you a question they find interesting. This is a great time to use those social listening skills.

20. Share a parable.

Make sure the story you want to tell makes a clear point.Now get started creating great content!

About The Author

Keep Your Customer Happy

In the article entitled “How To Create Customer Retention Strategies That Actually Work” written by Claire Cortese, she rightly says that every company wants to keep their customers happy – maintaining satisfaction amongst your customers is the number one way to increase customer retention.

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New business is always great, but the clients who come back again and again to do business with them define companies.

Client retention refers to a company’s ability to retain repeat clients – that is, customers who continue to return to do business with you over and over again. If a company has low client retention, it means that customers do not typically return to do business with them again.

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Ideally, you want a high customer retention rate because it saves your company both time and money in the pursuit of converting new clients. In general, it costs a company seven times more to acquire a new client than to retain an existing one.

That’s right – it’s actually cheaper for you to keep an existing client than convert a new one.

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In fact, increasing your customer retention rate by just five percent can lead to an increase in your company profits by up to 95 percent. If you ask us, those are not figures to scoff at.

Additionally, having a high customer retention rate means that your clients are satisfied and have strong brand loyalty, and loyal customers are more likely to promote you to others and bring in new business.

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Ask yourself this question: What would make your clients happy? What would your customers appreciate?

There are numerous ways to increase customer retention rates, but here are a few of the best, most basic starting points to begin implementing.

1. Always Thank Your Customers.

It might seem small, but saying thank you to your customers can go a long way. A handwritten thank you note makes your customers feel appreciated and valued, and it may just keep them coming back.

2. Own Up To Your Mistakes.

There’s no way around it – mistakes happen. One way or another, every company has a hiccup at least once in a while.

When this happens, make sure you address the problem head on. Tell your customers what went wrong and why, ensure them that it won’t happen again, and make sure you rectify the situation.

3. Ask How You Can Improve.

Create a survey to get feedback from your customers and find out about the quality of their experience with your company.

This is one of the best ways to find out what is and isn’t working for your customers, and how you can improve to provide better service. You should always be aiming to get better, and customer feedback will help you direct that pathway of improvement.

4. Go The Extra Mile.

Putting in effort to go the extra mile for your clients is a key retention tactic to ensuring customer satisfaction. Going the extra mile can mean different things for different companies, and it will most likely depend on the services and products you provide.

But it can be as simple as taking the time to check in and call your customers to make sure that everything is up to their expectations.

5. Talk, Talk, Talk! 

The more you interact with your customers, the better.

Find out how the majority of your clients communicate socially – via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – and get on those platforms! Make sure your company has a social presence, and stay engaged in conversations with your clients!

Now that you know about a few of the basic customer retention tactics, take a look at some real world examples of companies that have put effective strategies into place.

When you read through this list of examples, take careful consideration of how each company has implemented a unique retention strategy into their business model and how you might adjust that tactic to fit your own company.

First, Geico often promotes its slogan, “So easy, a caveman could do it.” This slogan is what drew me to sign up with them when I was tasked with finding car insurance after moving to a new state, and this is whatkeptme with them after I got in a car accident and totaled my car, just a week after signing up with them.

Geico’s services are as accessible as it gets – almost everything can be done through their mobile app – including calling emergency services, filing a claim, and even switching out vehicles and drivers on my plan. I can view all of my policy information right on my phone. After totaling my car, I expected the claim process to be a major headache, but was pleasantly surprised by how easy and painless it was with them.

I was so impressed by Geico’s quick and quality service that I even recommended it to my family members, who then switched their car insurance over to Geico as well. Not only is Geico retaining my business, but they’ve also managed to bring in new customers by delighting me with their exceptional service.

Second, the mission of a company plays a major role in both attracting new customers and retaining current ones. People stick with brands that align with their own interests and passions.

The TOMS business model is centered around a cause that people care about. They started with a “one for one” policy – for every pair of shoes bought, they give a pair to someone in need.

TOMS gives back to people, and their customers like this. Thus far, they have donated over 60 million pairs of shoes to those in need. Now, TOMS is adjusting their business model, refocusing on ending gun violence in the United States.

Nevertheless, their brand is still aligned with a good cause, and customers appreciate that they’re contributing to a company that gives back and works to make the world a better place.

Third, clients like to know that they’re doing business with the best of the best. Proving that you’re an expert in your field will keep your customers satisfied and ensure their peace of mind. But how do you do this?

Inbound business Software Company HubSpot established an educational platform, HubSpot Academy, to educate their customers on absolutely everything to do with inbound.

They provide an abundance of information and resources to help their customers learn, including full marketing certification courses and a consistently up-to-date informational blog that covers all the latest industry news.

With this plethora of information, clients know that they are working with a company that really knows their stuff, and they’re not likely to switch to a competitor when they’re already being continuously educated by HubSpot.

Fourth, Wendy’s is known to have a particularly hilarious Twitter account. In fact, customers actually tweet at Wendy’s just so they can be “roasted” by the restaurant’s account.

While Twitter may not have a lot to do with fast food, Wendy’s has identified a social hub where they can build a presence and interact with their customers in a fun way. The customers clearly love it, and it builds great brand awareness for Wendy’s.

Fifth, can you even remember what the world was like before Amazon? Because we can’t. What was life like before free two-day delivery with Prime? Amazon completely changed the game with the launch of its subscription program, Amazon Prime.

Customers were thrilled by the idea of free delivery in just two days, and it has kept them coming back to Amazon again and again. For a low monthly cost, Amazon offers huge benefits to its subscribers, which now also includes access to its movie and TV library, Amazon video (I don’t know about you, but it’s a rival to Netflix in my house).

Personally, I don’t know anyone who has ever canceled their Amazon Prime account – who would want to give up those benefits? Amazon Prime is a great example of a subscription plan that delights customers ensures a very high customer retention rate.

Lastly, most major airlines have some kind of frequent flier incentive program for their customers to enroll in, but for now, let’s just focus on JetBlue.

If you sign up for JetBlue’s customer loyalty incentive program, TrueBlue, you receive 2x TrueBlue points for every $1 you spend when you book a flight with JetBlue. When you have acquired enough points, you can use them to purchase a flight – essentially meaning you’ve got yourself a free flight.

While you have to acquire a lot of points to afford a flight, the incentive is clearly there, and it definitely works. People will typically choose to fly with an airline that they’ve enrolled in a frequent flier program with, because they want to earn more points and eventually build their way up to have enough for that free deal.

JetBlue’s points don’t expire and don’t have any blackout dates, and you can even pool your points with friends and family.

Frequent flier programs are just one common example of an incentive you can use to reward customer loyalty. Ask yourself – what incentive program would work best for my industry? How can I reward my clients for their loyalty, in a way that will keep them coming back?

The customer retention best practices listed above are a great launching point to increase retention, but if you really want to capitalize on repeat clients, you should develop a fully fleshed out strategy to do so. Going forward, ask yourself this: What retention strategy would work for your company?

About The Author

The Race To Inspire

We all know content marketing moves the needle on online lead acquisition. When it comes to interesting content, however, some industries have a tough time getting away from their stodgy image. As a general rule, for example, you’d expect more cool content from a soft drink company than a B2B software firm. In fact, B2C tends to beat B2B in general, at least in theory.

The exception to the rule: B2C financial services. In the article “8 Awesome Content Marketing Examples In the Financial Industry That Will Inspire You”written by Rob Steffens, he says that companies in the financial services industry have one of the most buttoned down and knotted up images of any industry.

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And yet, banks and credit card companies can succeed with inbound content marketing just as well – or even better – than the average brand.

Why? The answer is simple.

More than anything else, content marketing is about educating your audience. The best content marketing examples involve teaching people about a subject in a new way. Good content sparks interest, which enhances retention and fosters rapport between visitors and your brand.

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Marketers in the financial sector need to craft their content with care thanks to strict regulations. Still, they have the huge advantage of being able to educate their consumers on subjects that most people find mysterious. That makes it easier to position your brand as a trusted resource that makes life easier.

Even having said all that, it might be hard to imagine how content marketing in finance works. Luckily, some financial firms have put out stellar content marketing examples to learn from.

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Let’s dig deep into some of the top content marketing examples in finance!

1. Transamerica Wins With Content on Facebook

Transamerica’s Facebook page soars over mainstream consumer-oriented brands with more than 550,000 likes and nearly as many page followers. Transamerica defines its voice by connecting the esoteric realm of finance with health and wellness, athletic events, and charitable outreach.

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For example, they publish an infographic highlighting how to find time to exercise while doing the usual daily activities, which was created in partnership with the American Heart Association. This is a unique approach to teaching financial service customers about other important considerations that relate to personal finance.

Their content is well distributed thanks to their social media team, who has mastered using compelling photography and infographics to drive their message home and capture attention on users’ news feeds.

2. John Hancock Financial’s Golden Tweets

John Hancock Financial uses Twitter almost exclusively to promote the Boston Marathon, an event it has become closely associated with after more than three decades of sponsorship. A roster of nearly 44,000 followers is testament to its ability to create relevant brand content before, during, and after races.

Their content marketing approach is especially impressive because their tweets subtly drive traffic to the main John Hancock Twitter, too. They’re using their sponsorship as an opportunity to deliver more value to their audience while driving engagement.

3. MasterCard Leads on Video Content

MasterCard has been building its video library on YouTube since 2006, and thanks to their consistent efforts over the long term, the quality shows.

Its channel is a rich cornucopia of different content campaigns. Many videos are fun brand awareness content that appeals to hip young consumers.

However, there’s also insightful thought leadership on next wave digital payment solutions. Travel is a major theme throughout its productions, which appeals to a specific subset of their target audience.

4. JPMorgan Chase Maps and Data Visualization

Now we get into the deep innovation. JP Morgan Chase shows off its fluency with data through its Maps and Data Visualization index.

Investors and others interested in all the inner workings of the nation’s financial picture can explore interactive maps with overlays that disclose everyday spending habits, major events in the financial market, gas prices, and much more.

5. Ideas with Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley Ideas is a collection of deep dive blog posts at the intersection of finance and futurism. Everything from e-commerce to the Chinese market to the looming economic effects of Gen Z is examined in delectable detail.

Short videos help set the stage for each post, but the lavish quality of the writing means Ideas stands out from a crowd of imitators. This is the ultimate content marketing achievement – creating content that is distinctly superior to your competitors’ content.

6. The Famous NerdWallet Blog

On the other side of the text content continuum is the NerdWallet blog. Look closely and you’ll see NerdWallet has a complete content team along with dedicated writers, and the difference is noticeable.

NerdWallet offers a sizzling and snappy look at key personal finance topics relevant to younger consumers. Small business and travel are anchor topics, giving the blog a lifestyle feel that is unique in the financial industry.

7. SoFi Online Calculator Center

Some of the top content marketing examples include tools to make your life easier. Tackling finance means crunching a lot of numbers, of course, so audiences in the finance world are likely seeking out educational resources that help them better understand certain circumstances they may be. 

Enter SoFi. They make things easier with a spiffy set of financial calculators that run the gamut of life’s finance topics. From student loans to mortgages to retirement, you can figure it all out – and each calculator page is conversion oriented, too.

8. Kabbage Stories

Don’t let the name throw you off. Kabbage Stories show you exactly how case studies can work in finance.

Striking a balance between detail and accessibility, these case studies are aimed straight at mid-market customers perfect for Kabbage business loans. Leads can see problems like theirs solved through Kabbage and then take the next step seamlessly.For lead generation and brand building, content counts. There are amazing stories your content can tell, no matter what industry you’re in. Use these eight outstanding content marketing examples for inspiration and you’ll find ways to capture your unique value in the financial world.

About The Author

Make The Most Of YouTube

Are you on YouTube? You should be. In the article entitled “YouTube Marketing” Hubspot theorizes that we’ve all spent a wasted afternoon watching one silly video after another on this platform. YouTube has always been a source of entertaining content, but it’s also staking its claim as an essential tool for marketers. In fact, nearly half of all marketers (48%) plan to add YouTube to their marketing strategy over the next 12 months.

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You may be thinking: “That’s great, but my audience isn’t on YouTube.” Well, think again. One-third of total time online is spent watching videos, and YouTube has more than a billion active users. The platform is so expansive that it can be accessed in 76 different languages, accounting for 95% of the world’s population. 

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Not only is your audience on YouTube, but also YouTube can help improve your SEO and overall brand presence. YouTube allows marketers to present unique content that’s easy for viewers to consume and share.

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YouTube marketing can be an intimidating tool for brands. That’s why we’ve created this complete guide for YouTube pros and newcomers alike. Below we’ll walk through each step of marketing on YouTube.

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So, you’ve decided to create a YouTube channel. Great! We can’t wait to see the amazing content you promote. Before we dive in, it’s important to note that maintaining a YouTube channel takes a lot of time and planning. Are you ready for it?

Unlike other social networking platforms, YouTube exclusively hosts video content. If you’re creating a YouTube channel to merely upload one video and have no intention of maintaining the platform, you might want to reconsider.

You’ll need to set aside plenty of time to plan, film, edit, market, and analyze your content on a consistent basis. You’ll also need to define your brand’s goals and plan for how video can specifically help you achieve these. If you can devote an appropriate amount of time and energy into the platform, you’ll be able to create engaging, shareable content for your growing audience.

Before you start filming video content, you’ll need to set up your YouTube channel. This can get a bit complicated. As you probably know, Google owns YouTube. As a result, when you sign up for a Gmail account, you automatically gain access to a YouTube account, and much more.

Depending on your business, you may not want to tie your email to your business’s YouTube channel — especially if you need to share access to the account with team members or an agency partner. We suggest that you create a common email account that can be used by multiple people.

Now that you have a Google account, you’re ready to publish some awesome video content. But we’re not done quite yet!

You now need to set up a YouTube Brand Account. A Brand Account allows users to manage editing permissions and create a more holistic online presence. In the upper right-hand corner, take note that you’re probably already logged in. If this isn’t true, click on the blue “Sign in” button in the upper right-hand corner, and enter your new Google account username and password.

Once you’ve signed in, click on “My channel” in the left-hand menu bar. There, you’ll have the option to create a channel right away. Do not click on “Create Channel.” Click on “Use a business or other name” at the bottom. Enter your Brand Account name and press “Create.” Note: You can update or change your channel name from your account settings later, so don’t worry if you need to revise your selected label.

Start by adding a channel icon and channel art. These will be the first things users see when visiting your YouTube account, so be sure to use images that are easily recognizable and consistent with your overall branding.

A channel icon is similar to a Facebook profile picture. This image will be used across all of your Google properties such as Gmail and Google+. Consider using a company logo or, if you are a public figure, a professional headshot.

To add a channel icon, click on the default red profile picture in the upper left-hand corner of your channel. Then, upload an image. Google recommends uploading an 800 x 800 pixel square or round image. Note: It may take several minutes for your channel icon to appear after uploading.

Next, upload your channel art. Click on the blue “Add channel art” button in the center of your channel. Upload a 2560 x 1440 pixel image that will scale well — across a desktop, tablet, mobile, and TV.

After you upload your channel icon and art, add a channel description, a company email, and links to your company website and other social platforms under the “About” tab. Your description should provide more information on your company and explain what type of video content you plan on sharing. Search engines look at your description when determining how to rank your profile, so incorporate relevant keywords in your overview. We’ll talk more about how to optimize your YouTube channel description below.

With the basic profile complete, it’s time to add a few finishing touches! Before we move on, it’s important to get one thing straight — you can customize the way your YouTube channel looks to subscribers and unsubscribed visitors. This means that unsubscribed viewers would see different featured content than dedicated, subscribed viewers. 

One of the main ways you can take advantage of this feature is by creating a YouTube channel trailer. A channel trailer is the video version of your description and is shown to all your unsubscribed viewers. Your trailer should be short and sweet (around 30 to 60 seconds).

Focus on showing visitors what your channel is about and what they can expect to see. Don’t forget to encourage them to subscribe. Your trailer won’t be interrupted by ads, so it’ll keep the user focused on why they should watch more videos from your brand.

Ready to get started? First, make sure channel customization is turned on. To do this, click on the gear icon next to the red “Subscribe” button in the upper right-hand corner of your channel. Next, turn on the “Customize the layout of your channel” option and press “Save.”

Now that you’ve set up your channel for customization, upload your trailer. Click the arrow upload button in the upper right-hand corner and select your video file. Remember to add keywords to your trailer name and description. Once your video uploads, click on the “For new visitors” tab on your channel homepage. Then click “Channel trailer.” Finally, select your uploaded trailer, or enter a URL to a video you’d like to feature, and press “Save.”

Your channel may be eligible for a custom URL if you have over 100 subscribers, a channel icon, channel art, and is more than 30 days old. 

The first step to becoming a YouTube marketing pro is creating and optimizing your video’s metadata. Simply put, metadata gives viewers information about your video, which includes your video title, description, tags, category, thumbnail, subtitles, and closed captions.

Providing the right information in your video’s metadata ensures that it is properly indexed by YouTube and appears when people are searching for videos like yours. Be succinct and straightforward when filling out your metadata — your content could be removed if you try to promote it with unrelated keywords. 

Now that your YouTube channel is set up, it’s time to start populating it with content. 

About The Author

Perfect Your Sales Cycle

In the article entitled “How to Eliminate Sticking Points in Your Sales Process” by Rob Steffens, he points out that the sales process is one of the most important parts of keeping your business growing. Yet, many organizations don’t even have a formal map of their sales process.

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You can think of your sales process as all the activities your sales team performs to convert a prospect into a customer. This is a repeatable, reliable, predictable process that gets you from point A to point B, rather than a methodology. 

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Optimizing your sales process will save you time and earn you more money by:

>>Reducing effort duplication and time spent on lower priority sales tasks.

>>Helping you to onboard new sales reps and get them to producing faster.

>>Allowing you to recognize bottlenecks and other problems to be solved.

>>Empowering your team members to pursue tougher “stretch” sales goals.

And that’s really only the beginning.

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As the man once said, to manage, you must measure.

Once you start that “measuring,” you’ll probably find all kinds of little leaks in your sales funnel that need to be plugged. A sales process usually isn’t severely broken – that level of dysfunction is easy to notice. Instead, it loses energy at all kinds of different points.

When you start patching those small holes, you can truly raise sales performance overnight.

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Let’s look at some of the biggest areas where organizations can improve their sales process:

Start By Mapping Out Your Sales Process

A very basic sales process map might look like this:






In an inbound-focused organization, a sales rep generally first becomes aware of a lead when he or she engages with your marketing material. This shows your sales team a pain point that this lead might have.

In inbound sales, the sales and marketing teams contribute side by side to qualification. When your website and marketing materials are aligned correctly, you can often entice a lead to pre-qualify online without ever having to use sales resources.

To do this, though, everyone has to understand the steps in the sales process. It should be stored in a digital format where sales, marketing, and product development stakeholders can see it.

Get Everybody On The Same Page

A map is helpful, but the map is not the territory. Each person on the sales team needs to have a concrete understanding of his or her role in making deals a reality. That usually means having an “all hands” meeting where you can go over the salient points:

>>Who are our buyer personas — Who are our “best fit” buyers we want to focus on targeting?

>>What do our buyers know about our product? What marketing materials do they see?

>>What are our current methods for making sure a lead is completely sales qualified?

>>What are our current methods for prospecting, aside from our site? Do they work?

>>What objections are we running into in discovery sessions? Are we addressing them?

Clarifying these topics will help sales pros recognize when they’re investing time into a lead who is unlikely to convert or offer enough value for the enterprise. To consistently stay focused on only the best leads, however, you need to collect appropriate data and apply it through automation.

Make Sure You’re Collecting Relevant Data

To get your sales processes humming along the way they should be, you need to be certain you know which activities demonstrate sales intent and what conversion action moves a lead from one phase of the process to another. Luckily, there are amazing software tools to help.

There are two things you absolutely need here:

>>A data analytics suite that recognizes and flags sales-oriented activity on your site.

>>A customer relationship management (CRM) suite that offers full visibility for all leads.

Working together, these two apps will capture all the information you need about a sale in the making, whether the action takes place on your website, social media, or in email.

And Then Act On That Data Consistently

A modern CRM can empower you with lead scoring that will notify you when leads’ actions pass a certain threshold that suggests you should follow up with them right away.

That can be because they did something that indicates a pressing need – such as accessing a product demo or starting a free trial – or because their pattern of behavior over time strongly implies they are fully qualified and might benefit from personalized attention.

At any given time, you should be able to look at all your outstanding sales leads and see how many deals are in your pipeline, the potential value of each one, and where each person stands in the process, as well as which member of the team takes point on each agreement.

Put Strong “Gates” In Place Between Phases

With your data collection in place, it should be easier than ever to recognize the points where a lead passes from one phase of the sales process to the next. Just as importantly, however, is that your sales reps should receive customized notices for each lead as these milestones are reached.

As a lead goes from one stage to the next, you can visit your CRM to review their situation.

One of three things will happen:

>>You’ll notice something that disqualifies a given lead. Update your CRM’s logic.

>>The lead should be fast-tracked. Dive in and contact them personally right away.

>>The lead is “on target.” Send out whatever materials you normally would at this time. (You can automate this process and send internal notifications for sales reps with a great CRM, like HubSpot)

It’s crucial that there be no ambiguity around where one phase of the sales process begins and the other ends. Clear demarcations between the steps are essential for targeted communication.

If the steps are ambiguous, then at the very least, your leads will be very confused. Often, they’ll conclude that you aren’t paying attention to their needs and may take their search elsewhere.

Monitor Conversion Rates At Each Phase

Conversion rates are always going to differ – by industry, company, and even season of the year. The only thing you can always say for sure is conversion rates will go down with each step.

However, understanding whatyourcompany can consider “average” at each conversion is vital. This is the data that lets you know when part of your sales funnel is literally leaking leads.

It also gives you the power to recognize when a new initiative is lifting conversion rates. Just like your inbound marketing, your sales should be data-driven and always trend in the right direction.Long sales cycles and complex buyer journeys make B2B selling a challenge. When you break it down into individual, data-focused elements, you see how everything fits together. What seems like a sprawling, messy process becomes a series of “levers” you can pull, adjust, and optimize.

About The Author

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?

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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.

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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.

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