10 Magical Marketing Resources

unicorn1. Seth Godin

Godin is the Godfather of Marketing. There’s no denying it. Forget Wheaties, start your day with his blog.

2. Avinash Kaushik

If you don’t think data can be sexy, think again. Avinash Kaushik’s blog pulls of the covers, showing you the naked truth on how to drive marketing results.

3. April Dunford

No frills, straight to the point, April Dunford’s blog, Rocket Watcher, gives you a cold hard injection of marketing truth.

4. Mike Troiano

Mike Troiano and his Italian roots are cringing at the fact that I gave Seth Godin the Godfather crown… When Trap speaks, you listen. Any questions?

5. Andrew Chen

You’re all growns up, and it’s time to market by the numbers. Let Andrew Chen show you the way.

6. Erika Napoletano

In case you forgot how fun marketing can be, The RedHead Writing Blog is no bullshit, and hilariously, belly-aching good.

7. Scott Brinker 

Marketing and tech got married. They had a baby. Scott Brinker is the nanny.

8. Ramit Sethi 

Ramit is brash, over the top, and one of the best email marketers you will ever witness in action. Get. On. The. List.

10. seomoz

SEO. No one’s good at it. Stop pretending and start reading.

10. HubSpot

The HubSpot blog is a marketing bible. ‘Nuff said.

Hit me up in the comments with your favorite blogs!

Startup Lessons from Seth Godin [Video]

Master storyteller and blogger extraordinaire, Seth Godin, recently stopped by Intelligent.ly to share his marketing genius. From a group of over one hundred applicants, we selected a handful of Boston startups to serve up their greatest marketing challenges to Godin for advice. Boy, did he deliver.

Video Credit: Skyscope Creative designs and produces video marketing campaigns for technology companies in the northeast US.

Here’s a quick summary of a few of the startup challenges Godin tackled:

Bundio (Julian Weisser, CEO): Convince an industry to shift its model to a new approach. 

First, understand that different customers are different. Don’t try to get mass-market laggards to like your product; target the early adopters. Tell a story that resonates with this group and makes them want to give your product a try. Then make sure something about your product makes it likely that their peers will emulate them. Build a layer on top of your product that leads everyone who uses it to decide it would work better if others use it too.

Rhoost (Vianka Perez-Belyea, CEO): Sell a product to a niche market. 

Figure out how to be present in the exact moment at which your users experience the problem that your product solves. Align the conversation so the problem and the solution show up at exactly the same time.

Directr (Max Goldman, Co-Founder): Break out in a world with millions of competing apps, and decided where to invest precious resources

Figure out if you are a wandering generality or a meaningful specific. If you’re a wandering generality, the product itself has to be viral and have all of the elements that make it viral. Otherwise, it has to solve specific pain in a remarkable way.

Promoboxx (Sonciary Honnoll, Co-Founder): Use the right resources to get the attention of the right audience, using time efficiently and improving the buying cycle.

Build a turnkey, low customization solution that a low-level person inside your target organization can access and socialize within the company. Or find out how to get on more podiums and create buzz, so your product becomes the thing you have to explain to your boss if you don’t have it. Invent the category. Your job is to create pain, and then make the pain go away.

WordStream (Tara DiMaggio, UX): Bridge the gap between marketing and product design teams. 

Product and marketing are the same thing, and any organization that is splitting them apart is making a huge mistake. Move their desks—put the people in the marketing department physically in proximity to the product department, and have them switch roles one day per week.

Smarterer (Dan Pratt, Marketing): How do we identify a target market that values our core technology? 

Pick just one thing to stand for. It’s fearful, because you might be wrong, but it’s also what makes good companies become great. Pick one thing to stand for and say, this is what we do. And don’t forget—a product isn’t real until you have to pay for it, either with time or money.

In a recent post on his blog, Godin, made the following statement:

“Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…

It turns out that choices lead to habits.

Habits become talents.

Talents are labeled gifts.

You’re not born this way, you get this way.”

Seth Godin sure is gifted.

How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Program

Before attending this Intelligent.ly class on affiliate marketing, I’ll admit I had never even heard the term affiliate marketing before. However, Dan Marques, a Senior Online Marketing Manager at Reebok, and wearer-of-many-hats in other ventures, gave us a general overview of affiliate marketing, and showed us how to utilize it in our own businesses. Here is what I learned from this awesome class:

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards its affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.  There are four parties in affiliate marketing: the merchant (retailer, brand), the network (contains offers for the affiliate and takes care of payments), the publisher (affiliate), and the customer

There are several major networks which are good to use, including ShareASale, Google Affiliate Network, Linkshare and Commission Junction. Affiliate marketing programs have several pros/cons.  When using an affiliate marketing program, you are paying for performance, it’s quick and easy to launch, it builds your online exposure, and it’s easy to measure ROI. However, it can be time consuming to maintain, and there is a risk of fraud and negative brand exposure.

Pre-Launch Considerations:

Before launching your affiliate marketing program, there are several things you need to consider. First, do you want to manage your program in-house, use network services or use an OPM (Outsource program management)?   Managing your program in-house gives you more control over your brand, but is time consuming. Using network services or an OPM can save you time, but cost you money and give you less control over how your brand is portrayed.

The next thing to consider is your payout method. Common methods include Cost per Action (sign up, purchase), Cost Per Lead (email submission, quote submission), and Percentage of Sales (ecommerce). Other pre-launch considerations:

  • Consider your margin structure–don’t offer discounts you can’t afford to give out
  • Look at the affiliate programs of your competitors
  • Develop a search marketing policy, Trademark usage policy, loyalty/incentivized program policy, and adware/spyware/CAN-SPAM Compliance policy  for your publishers to abide by
  • Create a policy stating how you will attribute your publishers with purchases, leads, etc.
  • Make your policies easy to understand

Launch Checklist:

After launching your affiliate program, recruit publishers. Pay publishers for featuring your product, and then remember to email them at periodically with brand updates, new discounts, etc.  To recruit publishers, reach out to them directly via forums, blogs, competitor mentions, the network, and SEO rankings.  Incentivize your publishers. Give them incentives for taking the first action (adding links to their site), and incentives for their first order. Incentives to improve performance can be exclusive content/offers, tiered payment structure, bonuses for reaching certain levels, increased payout for increased exposure, special landing page, free products, and payment frequency.

When you’re looking to grow your affiliate program, remember the 90/10 rule. 90% of your affiliate channel revenue comes from 10% of your publishers. Therefore, focus on improving your programs with your 10% and those near your 10%. Other considerations upon launching your affiliate program:

  • Start your commission structure low (it’s always easier to go up)
  • Send a welcome email to your publishers, which includes contact information for your program manager
  • Add a link and page on  your website to the affiliate program
  • Put in place a policy for returns/cancelled/fraud orders
  • Sign up for other affiliate programs to get an idea of how they work

Pitfalls to Avoid:

Avoid these common mistakes which can ruin your affiliate marketing program!

  • Coupon/Deal Driven Program:  If you run too many of these, you may be giving away discounts you don’t need to. You may be cannibalizing conversions from your “upper funnel” affiliates and you may be diluting your brand. For your program to be successful, diversify beyond coupons/deals.
  • Paying for Fraud/Refund/Canceled Orders:  Don’t pay your publishers for fraudulent, refunded, or canceled orders. Create a monthly process for reversing the commission on all these orders. Automate this process if possible
  • Beware the Mysterious Affiliate: If you don’t know what they are doing to drive traffic, don’t let them into your affiliate program. If they seem suspicious (having an extremely high conversion rate) ask them to explain their method. If you don’t like their answer, kick them out of your program.
  • Paying Upfront for Placements: Paying upfront never benefits you.  You will almost never generate enough revenue to cover the upfront cost. Instead, align your incentives with the publishers. Increase their commission for the placement, or offer them a bonus if the placement drive more orders

After reading through this overview, you’ll now have the foundation set in place to tackle your own affiliate marketing program.

5 Boston Startups Crushing Content Marketing Strategy

If there’s one thing we love more than learning here at Intelligent.ly, it’s companies who value helping their users learn. Lucky for us, Boston is chock full of ’em. These companies put time and effort into their content strategies, not only writing for their consumers’ entertainment, but also to educate and provide thought leadership. Read a blog post from any of these companies and you’ll walk away having learned a thing  or two!

Kinvey

If you’re trying to build or market a mobile app, Kinvey has you covered. The company, which describes itself as a ridiculously easy cloud Backend as a Service, has a content strategy to ensure your success when launching an app. Kelly Rice, Kinvey’s marketing manager has an affinity for music videos, while VP of Marketing, Joe Chernov, just released an awesome infographic. Have you ever wondered how to go about marketing your app? They have your answer, along with answers to many other questions in their Backend as a Service Blog.

Catalyst Online

Catalyst creates innovative search strategies for its clients, and specializes in SEO, paid search, and social. In their blog, Insights To Ignite Your Mind, they highlight some of the latest trends in digital marketing and show you how to get a handle over them. Check out their most recent post, Facebook Graph Search, What It Means For Your Brand by Andrea Caruso.

Mixed Digital

There’s no shortage of articles out there that cover strategies for social media, but Mixed Digital, providing social media marketing and web analytics solutions, has a whole blog catered to it. In The Digital Life and Times, Mixed Digital provides insights into how to create a snazzy looking content strategy and advertising that engages consumers. If you’re an online marketer, give their stuff a read.

uTest

With so many metrics available out there to tell you whether or not your site is performing well, it’s hard to know where to turn for the answer. uTest, a company that provides in-the-wild testing services for mobile, web and desktop applications, has a solution. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the phases of mobile app testing or how to transition to agile development (both written by the fabulous Jamie Saine), uTest will teach you how in their Software Testing Blog.

Inside Tracker

Interested in improving your diet and finding the foods that are good for you? Inside Tracker, promising to provide a web-based, personalized path to health, wellness and performance based on scientific research, can help you out. Perrin Braun’s articles explore everything, from how alcohol affects athletic performance, to whether or not “natural” foods are better than artificial foods. If you’re looking to get healthy, give their blog, The Inside Track, a read.

How to Use Inbound Marketing to Grow Your Startup

Inbound MarketingDharmesh Shah knows a thing or two about inbound marketing. In addition to blogging about startups on his blog OnStartups, he is the CTO and co-founder of Hubspot, and literally helped write the book on Inbound Marketing. He’s truly a pro, and a group of over 50 Intelligent.ly students were lucky enough to share in his knowledge last week.

The concept of inbound marketing is simple: unlike the traditional outbound marketing that involves pushing out marketing materials in hopes of pulling in customers to the company, inbound marketing is about creating content that brings the customer to you.

Dharmesh left us with some great advice for improving our inbound marketing stategies. Read on below to learn more.

Make humans happy, not search engines.

Google exists to make consumers happy, so make their job easier. Don’t fill your website with content that is loaded with keywords, yet lacks any real value for the person reading it. Google’s algorithms don’t even take keyword density into account anymore. Create useful content, use a clean site design, and make sure your website is fast.

You’re not blogging enough

“Blog. You should be blogging, and blogging more. It simply works,” said Dharmesh. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, and it doesn’t matter how boring it is, you need to be creating useful content for users to derive value from that will show up in search results.

Blog early and often. Even if you ever only wrote two articles, they would drive a lot of value for your website—imagine what would happen if you blogged all the time. Write something that you think deserves to be shared, that people will think is cool. Every now and then, try something crazy. Be sure that your content takes a stand and picks one side over another; your customers will appreciate knowing where your values lay.

Sharing should be dead simple

Optimize your blog and website with social sharing buttons, which will eliminate the friction it would take to have to go on to another site and share it themselves. A key goal of using social media is to gain followers. Without followers, social media is not much fun, but the more you have, the more they’ll share your content. Don’t try and automate getting fans because although your numbers will grow, the company’s brand will deflate. Instead, grow them organically by creating great content that people want to consume. To find out what works and what doesn’t, measure everything.

Inbound PR

Everyone has a Twitter account now, even normal people. Utilize this fact to your advantage and leverage it as a PR tool. Add journalists that are relevant to your industry to a private Twitter list that you will only use for yourself. Go through this feed regularly and retweet and comment on pieces that stand out to you. This will eventually get them to recognize you and will begin to build a relationship with them.

With the fundamentals of inbound marketing now in your toolkit, you’re equipped to use the web to grow your startup. Now go out there and get blogging!