5 ingredients for ranking first on Google  One questions we often get from new clients is how they can rank first on Google, just like their competitors.   They ask because they know that showing up on Google's first page of results makes a big difference to the numbers of leads and deals they get.   Here's what we tell clients about search engine optimization (SEO)—including what we steps we take to improve our clients' search engine ranking.   What are keywords?  The starting place to ranking on Google is thinking about the words people type into Google (or other search engines) when they're looking to hire a business like yours. These words are referred to as keywords. In competitive industries you'll likely focus on a phrase or multiple words; for example rather than "widget supplier", "+widget suppliers in Toronto" or "aluminium widget suppliers".  When search engines crawl your site, they pick up on commonly used words as a way to rank your site pages. So, when crafting new content for your site, consider the phrases associated with your business, and the keywords that people are already using to find you. These can be obtained with free website analytics tools.  After identifying your priority keywords, integrate them into your web content. Then, when a user searches for a phrase that includes these words, the search engine will look for pages that include prominent mentions—like yours. Where should you include these key words to ensure your content is seen? Headings and section titles, link text, page titles and descriptions, image files names, throughout the page’s written content and in the URL. With regards to written content, make sure the keywords fit naturally within your text; avoid "stuffing" and overusing them.  How to use content marketing  Producing high quality content on your site can result in many positive SEO improvements: your site will be useful to readers, generate repeat visitors and other sites will want to link to you. Key to this is keeping your web content fresh. Search engines love new pages! Try to add new articles, photos and videos regularly; frequently updated sites are more often indexed by search engines. Without fresh content and updates, it could be months before search engines find you. And if you continue to produce content that people read, your web traffic will be quickly recognized. Search engines strive to provide quick, quality results to users. So, if you’re already making headlines, you’ll be rewarded in the rankings.  What kinds of content resonate best? Aim for web pages with at least 300 words, but 500 or more will rank you better. Even though some content is better than none at all, pages with fewer than 100 words won’t gain much traction. Further, having two or more pages on your site with identical content (or close to it) isn’t valuable for users, and search engines will filter this from their results.  The role of pay per click ads in B2B marketing  In #1 keywords and #2 quality content above, your work will generate traffic naturally or "organically". But if you are paying attention to the results shown when you search for something, you'll notice there are also a handful of "ads" that come up. In addition to ranking organically, it's wise to pay for ads too. In the beginning when you aren't ranking for particular keywords, your ads will ensure your business is coming up on the first page. Later when you are ranking you may still want to come up twice to increase the likelihood that a potential customer will pick your link over your competitor's.   With pay per click ads, the idea is to write ads that will tempt someone to click and also ensure that they are reflecting what you're selling so that you don't pay for their click and loose them the minute they get to your website and realize you don't offer what they're looking for. Just think of the number of times you have searched for something, clicked on one of the search results and immediately realized it was not what you wanted at all.   Why links are important to your search ranking  Backlinks, or links that redirect from other sites to your own, can greatly improve your SEO. A few backlinks can assist the search engine in finding your site, but numerous links will indicate that your site is an important resource. The more incoming links you can obtain from pre-existing high-ranking organizations, the higher you’ll be listed in search results. Consider your stakeholders, professional organizations and business directories; is there an opportunity to bounce links off each other?    While backlinks from other websites are integral to your SEO strategy, they’re not the only type of link that matters. Links on your own website make a difference, too. If you have an underperforming page on your website, drive more links to it from other sections of your site to gain more traction.  If you already have existing social media accounts for your brand, add your URL to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to enhance your link trail. Then, when you add new content or pages to your site, be sure to Tweet them and share them with your social networks. “Search crawlers” visit these sites, too, so this can further increase your ability to obtain a higher search ranking.  How the design of your website impacts your search ranking  The detailed structure of a website can also affect your search engine rankings. Ensuring a responsive design, one that is optimized for smartphones, tablets and PCs—as well as various web browsers—is rewarded by search engines. A responsive website has the same URL for both the mobile and the main site, which avoids the confusion of separate URLs depending on a user’s device. This can greatly improve and simplify your external backlinks, as discussed above.  With regards to your site’s coding, ensure it’s as clean as possible for the spiders to crawl through. If you're not familiar with coding or HTML, consult web developer.  How page layout influences your search ranking  The actual content on your site can be optimized in a way that will also enhance your SEO. While images and graphics can make your page pop, keep the file sizes less than 100 KB with a resolution of 72 dpi. Large images will make your site load slowly, which won’t resonate well with users. In each image’s alt-text, include your identified keywords.  Ensure your content is logically organized for the user. Break up long blocks of text into bulleted lists and smaller paragraphs, and incorporate headings and sub-headings. Tag your headlines appropriately, using <H1> for titles and <H2> for subtitles, to maintain structure.  When laying out your content, ensure it starts above the fold (the point on your screen where a user has to start scrolling down to see more content). If your website dedicates a lot of space above the fold to ads, users may not scroll down to get to the good stuff.     After all your SEO work, stay on top of your efforts by monitoring your results. Google Analytics can track your page views for free, along with other useful SEO statistics. Be sure to monitor items like bounce rates and the amount of time users spend on your site(s) to measure the effectiveness of your content. High drop-off rates combined with little time spent on your page could be a sign that your content isn’t relevant or engaging. Evaluate your metrics to see what's working (and what's not), then revisit your content and design strategies to make adjustments. A winning combination of quality content plus logical design is sure to get you noticed

5 ingredients for ranking first on Google

Here's what we tell clients about SEO—and what we do to improve their search engine ranking. 

      Pay-per- click ads: What's in it for me?  Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a method of online marketing where you (as the advertiser) pay every time a user clicks on your ad, which may appear in a search engine, website or social media platform. Generally, the clicks redirect users to your website, blog, online store, app store or other landing site where you want them to be. And, for every click, you pay a fee, hence the name "pay per click".   If you don't show up at the top of a Google search result, or in a user's LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed, you're opening up the door to your competition. Take advantage of this all-important digital ad space that's available to you. Here are five reasons why:  Digital advertising is both measurable and flexible  Traditional advertising (think: print ads, fliers, etc.) has a downfall in that it's difficult to track impressions, and you can't make ad adjustments mid-delivery. PPC advertising capitalizes on the fact that you can monitor your results in real time to see exactly how your content is performing, and the types of actions that result (i.e. purchases, subscriptions, downloads, etc). You also have the flexibility to make corrections or improvements throughout the duration of the campaign based on performance, your inventory, product offering and other factors.  PPC ads drive traffic  Social media alone can be an effective way to drive traffic to your website or blog. But without incorporating PPC advertising, it might take awhile before your audiences find you, especially the right audiences. But there's more to PPC than driving users to your site. To get the best ROI, you want them to take the next step, as mentioned above, whether that be placing an order, signing up for an appointment, submitting a job application or other profitable action to you. However, ensure you're active on the landing pages you promote to ensure users can (and will) take that next step.  Digital is more easy to target  PPC ads can be targeted to your audiences based on geographic, demographic and event socio-graphic factors that you determine. This is advantageous mainly because traditional forms of advertising can (and will) draw visitors from everywhere. And, this may not appeal to you if your business is only able to serve a certain geographic area or a certain demographic.  Cost effective advertising  If you're paying for traditional advertising that may (or may not be) seen, you could be investing significant dollars into the unknown. With PPC you determine your maximum daily, monthly or lifetime budget, and only pay when someone clicks on your ad. This is contrary to traditional advertising where you pay for placement, regardless of interactions, and never really know how it performed. Take advantage of PPC by investing in marketing that generates traffic and results.  While traditional advertising still has its time and place, it can be greatly complemented by PPC options. Remember, though, that PPC takes time and effort. And, when set up and managed well, you'll be able to see profitable results. If you need assistance in setting up your first PPC campaign, or even maintaining it, contact us. We can ensure your campaigns are optimized to achieve your intended objective.

Pay-per- click ads: What's in it for me?

Wondering if your company should invest in Google AdWords or other pay-per-click ads? This is a must-read 101 on digital advertising.

      Enhance your brand with earned influence  What is earned influence, and how does it relate to public relations? The concept was recently discussed by PR Council Chair Chris Graves on PRcouncil.net:  "If we dive deep into the core of what public relations can be, at its most meaningful and most competent, it is a powerful differentiator from advertising and other marketing disciplines. Because at our essence, we understand the art and science of building relationships. When successful, those relationships allow us to engage others with purpose and respect, to share, educate, inform and entertain. Through these relationships, we earn the right to try to join conversations and maybe even change minds. We earn that right to influence others. Call it earned influence."  But how can you use the concept of earned influence to enhance your brand? It's all about genuine relationship-building. Here are five factors that help you create valuable audience engagement in today's crowded digital marketplace.  1. Locate your audience  Once you've determined who you're trying to reach (your target audience), it's time to find out where they are. Which online or social platforms are they using to communicate? Researching your audience's demographics and socio-graphics can provide insight into the digital spheres where they gather.  Knowing your audience's preferred method of communication means you can tailor content specifically for that platform, instead of taking a blanket approach and trying to haphazardly cover it all. Keep in mind quality versus quantity; top-notch content where it needs to be, versus generic, duplicate content across every platform.   2. Produce content that's valuable  Your audience will be more likely to engage with you (and, in turn, create earned influence) if you have information they're looking for. Ask yourself: Am I answering their questions? Am I providing added insight to their interests? Do your research to find out what information gaps are out there, then fill them with unique, meaningful content.   3. Determine the best timing  Once you've determined the type of content you will deliver, and where, consider how to stay up to date. If you know what time frames, holidays or events drive your user engagement, take advantage of this insight to provide timely content. Maintaining your brand's voice online is a much more onerous task than posting updates to your personal Facebook page. Invest effort in ensuring your corporate content provides intelligent insight and accuracy. Commit time to the task and results will follow.  4. Be consistent  Now that you've put in the work to engage and influence your audience(s), keep it up. The way to maintain a loyal following is through consistent content that continues to be unique and meaningful. Be sure to monitor your engagement stats so you can gauge when your interaction rates are at their highest. Then, follow through on providing content around these times. A content calendar can help you to plan your content and posting schedule, as well as track your engagement metrics.  5. Converse with your audience  With great content comes great engagement, but are you responding to it? Online communication is a two-way street, and the best way to earn your influence is to engage with your audience to create a meaningful relationship. Just as often as you curate your own content, you should be listening and responding to your audience's conversations. As you review and engage, you'll be able to gain raw feedback, something you can't garner from other forms of communication (think: print ads, billboards, newsletters). Be social, and keep the conversation flowing.   Incorporating these five factors together, you'll be putting considerable effort into relationship-building with your audience, and earning a true influence. And, as you keep up your efforts, you'll be able to earn trust and create brand advocates for your business.   

Enhance your brand with earned influence

What is earned media, and how can you use it to improve your brand? Discover five elements to successful PR here.

      Using content marketing to improve your SEO and drive leads  Think back, if you can, to the pre-Internet days. Remember when businesses relied solely on TV, print and radio to market their message? There was no opportunity for interaction, and consumers were forced to receive commercial messages whether they wanted to or not. Insert the Internet, and that all changed. Now, consumers don't have to listen to commercial messaging if they don't want to hear it; they can leave your webpage, visit a competitor or turn their device off completely. When it comes to modern marketing, it's all about directing users to your avenues, keeping them there and encouraging return visits. And the best tool for this is publishing content (think blogs and infographics), a.k.a. content marketing. Not only will great content improve your SEO, it can also generate much-wanted leads.  Best practices for content marketing  1. Frequent original content  Put simply, content marketing is a marketing method that centres on creating and distributing applicable, quality content on a consistent basis. The goal is to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, which can, ultimately, drive sales and increase your brand's visibility. Focusing on publishing this original content is what will set you apart from the sales pitches and spam from some of your competitors.  2. Smart, varied distribution  When it comes to your communication method, go where your prospects are. Depending on your industry and consumer base, this might include publishing content on your website, third-party sites, launching email marketing or newsletter campaigns, utilizing social media platforms and more. But don't try to do it all. Choose a few avenues to focus on (in time you’ll figure out which ones work the best). This way, you can target your specific audience when they want it, and in the medium that they prefer to consume it.  3. Engaging content  Because there is so much content being published daily, it's unrealistic to simply post a few paragraphs on your website and expect it to go viral. Take time to understand the behaviours, needs and interests of your consumers, and how you can get your content into their hands and have them come back for more. Experiment with your publishing schedule, topics of interest and communications methods until you see results. Then stick with what works.  Enrich content to generate leads  If you consistently develop applicable, quality content that resonates with your consumers, you’ll easily have them coming back for more. And when it comes to web traffic, a returning visitor means more to your business than a new one who never returns. If you regularly create content for your consumers, and let them know that it’s available (via a cross-channel mix of communication methods), you can out-market your competition.  Your content will quickly become a social object that your customers (and potential clients) can interact with; bonus points if they share it with their friends and colleagues! Your online material has the potential to ignite interaction in different ways, and plays a crucial role in the decisions consumers make.  Optimize content for SEO  Search engine optimization (SEO) means affecting how your website (or web page) ranks in a search engine's unpaid results. In other words, it’s the race to first position on Google. To influence your ranking, the most important rule of thumb is to frequently publish top-notch content on your site. This encourages visits, and keep users coming back. Original and engaging content is what will set you apart from competitors, and give search engines something to index that can’t be found anywhere else.   Further, consider the longevity of your content. A timely news article might perform well in Google while it’s topical, but your SEO results will drop soon after. To deliver long-term traffic, focus on creating content with useful information that is likely to perform well in a search over the long term. From there, higher search rankings will result in more visits to your content, more links and improved rankings.  When developing content, try to avoid using jargon or too many technical terms in your writing. This may supersede what searchers are looking for. Instead, incorporate the keywords your customers use to describe your offering. These are the same keywords they’ll type into Google when looking for alternatives. If you need to do some research to figure out your keywords, there are free online tools like keyword.io and Google’s own keyword tool.   As you progress in developing your content marketing strategy, remember to focus on quality over quantity. Avoid pumping out content just for the sake of it, and instead create genuine content that resonates with your readers. Incorporate keywords relevant to your business, as well as images and videos that are likely to hold your readers’ attention for a longer period. For the same reason, ensure long articles are broken up into easy-to-read sub-sections with headers and bulleted lists, where appropriate.  At the end of the day, the quality of your content is what will drive traffic. Don’t let your content marketing strategy become consumed by SEO goals. Ensure you meet basic content demands first, and strive to achieve SEO results through quality material for readers. Knowing how to create effective content (and how to get it in from out your target audiences) should be the goal of your business’ content marketing strategy, with leads and improved SEO as the desired results.

Using content marketing to improve your SEO and drive leads

When it comes to modern marketing, it's all about content marketing. Not only will great content improve your SEO, it can also generate much-wanted leads. Read on for content marketing best practices.

      The rise of video  Within the past year we've seen Facebook introduce video ads, Twitter launch video autoplay, and the rise live streaming video through Periscope. Unsurprisingly, these opportunities for video have been met with a rise in marketing spend on video. Most importantly, video isn't simply trendy, it delivers measurable results for businesses.   In 2016, video is a must-have marketing tactic for thousands of companies in Canada, big and small. The same is happening south of us where 96% of B2B companies plan to leverage video in their marketing efforts in 2016 for building brand awareness, generating leads and attracting online engagement, according to a US-based study by the  Web Video Marketing Council .    How can you ensure your video will garner great results? Don't just jump right into production. Start with your marketing strategy, be focused and specific, and finish with measurement. Here's how:  Review your marketing strategy  Spend time reviewing your company’s core competencies, market differentiators, key messages and competitive advantages. Ensure the message of the video clearly communicates the value you offer customers.   Define your intended audience   Different people need different things. Before you write your script, define who you are talking to in the video and think about what aspects of your product are most important to them. This can be done quickly and will result in a clear, effective message. Remember, the tone of writing, messaging, and positioning of your product should be different for each target audience, so avoid trying to develop a video with a general message for all potential customers—the results won’t be nearly as good because the video is unlikely to work well for anyone.  Be specific  After watching the video you want potential buyers to know how your solution will solve their problem. Specifying the way(s) your solution will address their needs will increase conversions. If you have more than one product, either select the one that has the largest benefit to customers or make multiple videos because jamming too many messages into a video will complicate and confuse people. If possible test the script with customers and potential buyers before you make the video.   Set goals and measure success   Don’t forget to establish the overall goals and specific success metrics for the campaign, such as ROI, leads and conversion goals. Understanding video performance will help you produce more successful video campaigns in future.   Video facts and figures    (via  HighQ )       65% of video viewers watch more than ¾ of the video     80%+ of senior executives watch more online video now than they did a year ago     59% of senior executives would chose video over text if both were available to them on the same page     81% of people feature video on their corporate website     19%: The increase in open rates when video is in the email subject line     2 mins+: The increase in dwell time on a website with video     

The rise of video

The use of video in marketing is on the rise--and it works! How can you ensure your video will garner great results? Read on!

      4 reasons you can't afford NOT to have a marketing strategy 2018  January is quickly approaching. Planning for 2018 is fully underway. Does your planning include marketing?  Buyer behaviour has drastically changed over the past decade thanks to the internet. Today, buyers are 80% of the way through the purchase process when they are ready to speak with someone at your company. Companies working hard to address this 80% "gap" are the ones most likely to get the sale. This is why so many businesses are paying attention to their marketing now.  Whether you have a full-time marketer or marketing is a small part of someone's responsibilities, here are four reasons why you need a strategy guiding your marketing in 2016:     You'll get better results  A small budget doesn't go far, so don't waste it. Be deliberate. Aim to reach out to specific types of people versus everyone everywhere. If you are selling multiple products decide if you want to put more energy into promoting one this year. Strategy ensures you focus resources on specific people, geography, tactics and elements of your offering.      Your messaging will be more compelling  Marketing assets that are created ad hoc almost always lead to inconsistent messaging and design. Presenting your company consistently over time starts with articulating your offering and pinpointing what makes you different from the competition. Not only will saying the same thing across your marketing assets improve your stickiness in the minds of buyers, it will also eliminate all guesswork for your buyers. Setting some basic user guidelines for the graphic design (colours, fonts, images) helps a lot too.      You'll generate and convert more leads  Giving thought to what gaps in your marketing-sales process need to be filled allows you to direct your resources toward closing gaps. Do potential buyers know you exist? Are you providing them the information they need when they are learning and evaluating? Is there something you can equip sales with that will help close more deals? Aligning marketing tactics with the buyer journey will get more people into and through the buying process. ( Read more about aligning tactics with your funnel in this Hop Skip article .)      You'll stop wasting money  Setting goals and tracking effectiveness is essential to figuring out what's working and what's not. Decide ahead of time what key performance indicators matter to you so you avoid getting mired in data.    Even if you are extremely limited in what marketing you can afford to do, focus, consistency and analysis will improve the results you are seeing. Don't let another year pass you buy—now's the time to layout your strategy.

4 reasons you can't afford NOT to have a marketing strategy 2018

Even if you are extremely limited in what marketing you can do, the focus, consistency and analysis that results from having a strategy will improve the results you see this year.

      4 website best practices that boost organic search traffic  If your website is easy to discover, and easy for search engines to index, you’ll get better traffic than a competitor whose site is not. This type of web traffic is called "organic" because people are finding you naturally by typing their keywords into Google (or Bing or Explorer) and responding to the search results that pop up.  If you want to  rank first on Google  and make it easier for potential buyers to find your website, make sure you are following all four of these simple best practices:   1 \ Write strong page titles  Page titles should be no longer than 50 - 60 characters, without repeating keywords. Be descriptive and intentional with the words you use. This is what people will see in their Google results and will make or break whether they come to your site. Page titles also impact your search ranking.   2 \ Craft smart meta descriptions  This is the line of information that displays beneath the link in a search result. It describes the contents of your page, should be no longer than 155 characters and should be topical. A well-written meta description might earn you a better click-through rate (CTR), which in time  might  translate into an increase in your search rank.      











                This screen capture illustrates how page titles and meta descriptions are displayed on a search engine. The blue text is the page title, the black test is the meta description.    

















                By contrast, here is a company that has entered the page title, but no meta data. In place of he meta description is "No information ... "    






      3 \ Be intentional with your headlines   Headlines (versus paragraph copy) distinguishes headings from page content. This helps search engines to know what your webpage is about (and thereby serve it to people when they are searching for that material). Headlines also help visitors to scan and find the information they're looking for.   Your website will have a few headline styles. H1 (headline one) will be the largest and most bold, whereas an H3 or H4 will be smaller. Use your H1s and H2s to explain what's on the page. Be sure they include keywords. Use H3s and H4s to introduce sub-sections, and make them descriptive rather than one or two words in order to help your page to rank.     






      4 \ Publish frequent blog content  Finally, tick a few SEO boxes with the other content on your site. Having a blog is important for SEO (Google sees companies with lots of fresh quality content as more relevant than a stale 4-page site. Plus, it builds credibility with potential customers.   How often should you blog? Weekly would be great, but most of our clients tend toward monthly. Even quarterly is better than nothing. The more blogging you do, the more traffic you get. You'd be surprised how dramatically a blog can impact the number of people visiting (and revisiting) a website. One of our clients saw the number of visitors coming to their site skyrocket to 300% over the same 6-month period in the previous year. This was the result of publishing several articles and a white paper, and sharing them via email and social media.      Though these four best practices are simple, many organizations aren't employing them. If you and your competitors are among this group of laggards, it won't be hard for you to pull ahead. Start with the simple stuff: spend a couple hours in the back-end of your website and fix your page titles and meta descriptions. Next edit your headlines. Finally, address your blog content. Don't have one? There's no time like the present!

4 website best practices that boost organic search traffic

If you aspire to ranking first on Google, and want to make it easier for buyers to find your website, are are four simple best practices you'll want to follow.

      Unsure where to begin with your marketing? Look at your funnel  The marketing and sales landscape has changed drastically in the past 10 years. Many companies looking to stimulate their pipeline turn to marketing. Most default to redoing their website, but some consider hiring a SEO company or focusing on social media. The common thread is most small businesses aren't sure what they need to do to bring in more customers.   If you can relate, consider this advice: an easy way to figure out which marketing tactics you should invest in is to take a look at your marketing-and-sales funnel (pipeline).   It's helpful to consider your pipeline, not only in terms of the buyer stages (suspect, prospect, etc.), but in terms of what sales and marketing needs to accomplish in each stage. When we consider the pipeline in this way, then figuring out which marketing tactics to use and when to use them becomes more obvious.      




     1. What to do when buyers haven't even heard of you  When buyers are unaware that you exist, you have to get in front of them. But how? Traditional marketing like print ads and tradeshows may work. Or digital marketing tactics like digital ads and content disseminated through social media platforms such as Twitter could be best. At this stage, embracing multiple tactics is your best bet in order to get in front of many people, and selecting which tactics to move forward with involves consideration of your buyer(s). Regardless of what tactics you proceed with, most marketing at this stage directs people to your website, so now let's think about the job your site has to do.    2. How to engage a buyer who is interested   Success! You've got a "suspect" to your site. Now imagine these two scenarios: A - This suspect lands on your homepage. They scroll down the page, then go to Products and About Us, scanning what you do and your location. After a minute (at most) they leave.  B - This suspect lands on your homepage, scrolling through it. They watch a 30-second video that describes what you do, then they see you are offering a free ebook. Intrigued by the topic, they fill out their name and email and get the eBook, then leave your site.   Now what?   3. Desire and educating your buyer    Under scenario A, you have to hope to lure the visitor in again. Hard work! In scenario B, you now have their email. But this contact isn't ready to buy from you yet. Interactions with them at this stage are centered around education (industry trends, how to articles, etc.), so you follow up by sending an infographic or article. And later you encourage them to join your social media page so they can get more frequent information (and you can be in more regular contact).    4. When interest turns into intent   When people realize they have a problem or need, they begin to research by consuming in-depth content and collateral like white papers and webinars. As they get closer to buying, they'll assess your credibility as a provider. Messaging that clarifies to the buyer how your solution is different and better is critical at this stage. How else are they going to decide between competing products? They'll also look at your comparison charts, case studies and testimonials to determine whether you are the best vendor to select.   5. How to communicate with buyers as they evaluate & purchase   Years ago, marketing's job would have been long over at this point. Today, most buyers aren't ready to interact with sales until they are evaluating vendors. At this stage, they'll be ready for a demo, pricing or quote, presentation, live chat or some other one-on-one interaction. But marketing's job is not yet done.    6. Create a great customer experience   After the sale has been made, focus shifts to nurturing customers in hope of repeat and referral business. In industries like SAAS, customer renewals can account for the majority percentage of revenue (80%+), so though it is a just a single stage in the customer journey, the customer stage can be an extremely lucrative one--and in some ways easier that early stages since you don't have to work as hard to communicate with them. Typically, marketing in this stage takes the form of customer communication like product education and announcements and surveys. Brand experience plays an extremely important role here too, in the form of interactions with customer service reps as well as in communication and the experience people have using your product.   Once you approach marketing from the perspective of moving people through your funnel, it is clear that the no single marketing tactic will be a silver bullet. Of course, any one tactic should help stimulate your pipeline a bit (some tactics more than others), but one-off tactics will likely only address one stage in your funnel. Even investing in content, which is required at all stages, depends on a website with good messaging and conversion forms in place so you can get back in touch with prospects and leads through email. Marketing is not rocket science, and it can be kept simple, but be sure your plan includes an integrated set of tactics that will move people through your funnel.   

Unsure where to begin with your marketing? Look at your funnel

The marketing and sales landscape has changed drastically in the past 10 years, leaving most small businesses unsure of what they need to do to bring in more customers. Your marketing-and-sales funnel may have the answers you've been looking for.

      3 tools to evaluate your website  Trying to generate more qualified leads?  Need to improve your lead conversion rate?  Want to increase awareness of your business?  Your website is key to all of these. It has to look good, but there's more to it than this. A lot of information is hidden in the backend of your site. At Hop Skip Marketing, one of the first things we do for clients is run tests on their website to see what, if anything, needs to be fixed. These tests tell us how the site performs overall, is it "Google friendly" (aka search engine optimization, or SEO), does it look good on a smartphone? Today we're sharing some our favourite free website audit tools so that you can ensure your website is doing its job.  3 free tools to audit your website   Website Grader  This is one of our go-to tools. All you have to do is submit your website address and email and you'll get a robust report and grade. Expect key metrics like page load speed, mobile friendliness and security.      






      Nibbler  Another excellent tool, Nibbler provides you with a report on several key metrics including accessibility, SEO, social media and technology. It gives you an at-a-glance grade out of 10 so you can prioritize your fix-it list.     






      WooRank  WooRank is a fast, easy-to-use SEO audit and digital marketing tool. They look at your site through Google’s eyes and generate an instant audit of your site’s technical, on-page and off-page SEO.     






        Any one of these free tools will give you insight you can't otherwise ascertain. Pick one tool, or try a couple and compare the results. Once you've pinpointed what isn't working well, you can prioritize the repairs and hand the tasks to your website designer to address. Don't be daunted— often minor changes are all that's needed to turn around a failing website grade. Run this test once a year to keep your website running like a well-oiled (marketing) machine. 

3 tools to evaluate your website

Is your website doing as good a job as it can to generate leads? Here are practical tips and free tools for evaluating and improving your site.

      How to align marketing strategy with corporate goals  Beware of this costly widespread marketing shortcut  It’s shocking how many companies don’t link marketing with corporate direction. Establishing a few straightforward priorities is one of the easiest and best ways to ensure marketing dollars are wisely spent.  Despite the unsurprising benefits of alignment, many companies—including those with full marketing departments—forego this work in favour of jumping into tactical execution like sending out an email or coordinating a tradeshow presence. Some plan by way of creating a tactical plan for the year and starting from there.  If your company is taking this shortcut, consider this: a relatively quick and simple exercise defining marketing objectives and goals, the target customer and a product focus will quickly focus the effort, and generate better results for the same money. Even stopping here (well short of a marketing strategy), will garner better results.   1/ Establish 2 or 3 marketing objectives   Knowing why your company is investing in marketing will influence which tactics are employed, and also which prospects or customers should be the focus of marketing campaigns. Here are examples of typical B2B marketing objectives:    Brand awareness    Customer acquisition    Lead generation    Thought leadership    Increase product awareness    Lead nurturing    Reputation management     Of these, brand awareness and customer acquisition are the most commonly cited marketing objectives for B2B companies. However, some industries within the B2B space have different objectives. While you could probably select all of them as marketing objectives, take a stakeholder vote and focus on the top one, two or three objectives.   2/ Set measurable goals   Having some quantified metrics to strive for is important for planning this year and forecasting in future. Even if you have to take a wild guess at the number for the first year, do so because it is important for the business planning process.  Remember, goals should be “SMART”; that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive. They should also align with the established marketing objectives. For instance, if the objective is to grow new business, then the goal may be to increase revenue from new business deals by 25% this year. Here are examples of marketing goals:    % increase in sales from past customers    # new clients from a specific geographic region    # sales-qualified leads for a new product    % increase in overall client engagement    While many goals relate to stages in the marketing/sales funnel, there are endless ways to measure success, so don’t feel confined to commonplace measures.   3/ Select a target market   Everyone has heard the stats on how many messages we’re bombarded with daily and how much time advertisers have to catch a buyer’s attention. And everyone concedes that getting noticed is challenging, so getting noticed when you have a limited budget to make a splash with can seem like mission impossible.  Enter, target markets.  While the term “target market” will not be new anyone in your company, actually getting them on board with an activity to focus the entire marketing effort on one or two groups of buyers may be a challenging process. It is, however, imperative. The more you can direct the marketing effort at a specific group of people you want to reach, the less money will be wasted reaching out to everyone else.  These are some ways to segment buyers:    Geography    Business type    Business size    Business maturity    Deal size    Once you have determined who the target buyer is, consider creating profiles of your buyer(s) to gain an even deeper understanding of whom marketing messaging, branding and tactics needs to resonate with.     4/ Prioritize the offering    For companies with multiple service or product offerings, a simple prioritization exercise will give structure to the marketing spend. Is there a new product that marketing needs to put most of its effort behind this year? Perhaps a new competitor is cause for concern and marketing needs to retain market share. Defining how the marketing resources (time and money) should be prioritized increases the likelihood that impact will be made where it is most needed.  With the right people in a room, and a little planning ahead of time, these four activities can be completed in an hour or two. (Helpful hint: treats on the table will make your participants happier!)  Knowing the overall marketing objectives, goals, target marketing and internal priorities will give your marketing team—and departments who work with marketing—context and direction on which to base the tactical plans. The notion that adding some strategy and structure to marketing may seem daunting, but it can be as simple as establishing four metrics. And why not when it improves your results?   

How to align marketing strategy with corporate goals

It’s shocking how many companies don’t link marketing with corporate direction. Establishing a few straightforward priorities is one of the easiest and best ways to ensure marketing dollars are wisely spent.