Mike Allton is an award-winning blogger, author, and content marketing practitioner who founded The Social Media Hat. We recently chatted with Mike to hear his advice on building successful online campaigns and using digital marketing tools effectively to attract leads.
Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to start The Social Media Hat?
From the early nineties, I've been working with small businesses to help them navigate online marketing, including websites and social media. For a while, my main focus professionally was to build websites for businesses; but in the process of marketing my own business, I discovered something amazing: I actually love to write.
It's amazing because that never seemed to be true when I was younger. I hated to write anything by hand, and my English grades actually suffered until my parents bought me an early Word Processor in 1990. As I progressed through college, I wrote my assignments when I had to but never really took much joy in it (particularly when the assignment was to fill two blue books for a history exam!).
So to learn that, when given a topic of real interest like social media, I not only enjoyed it, but was good at it - yeah, that was amazing.
The only problem I ran into was that initially, the content I wanted to write wasn't ideally suited to the business I was trying to promote. So I started The Social Media Hat in 2012, and it's gone on to become an award-winning social media blog.
How should a company structure its digital marketing campaigns so that the leads it gets are solid and more likely to be converted into customers?
The best structure for online campaigns is one of funnels. With funnels, you have an ultimate goal at the bottom of getting a lead. But you don't want just any lead; you want one that's been self-vetted and targeted.
So one starts with asking the question, "What issue or issues are my potential customers going through that I want to be able to solve?" And you sketch out a page that talks about that specific issue and has a form to contact you, schedule an appointment, or whatever your desired action is.
Next, you come up with three important topics that relate to this issue. These are going to be pages that you write that dive into those topics in great detail. At the end of each of these pages, the readers are led to that main landing page.
Next, you come up with three blog posts for each one of those topics (nine posts total) that might talk about recent events, share some insights, or even offer digital downloads (more on that in a moment). Each blog post will lead to its respective topic, which then leads to the main lead generation page.
The result is a funnel where you have blog content at the top, leading down into targeted topical pages, all leading into a single lead generation form.
To increase the effectiveness of the funnel, you'll want to add an email marketing element. Create a digital download of some kind - whether it's an in-depth report, white paper, checklist, resource, or even just a PDF version of a lengthy article - and offer to email it to readers. A simple MailChimp autoresponder can deliver it once a new subscriber has been added to a specific group which you would create for the purpose.
Now, you have a growing list of subscribers whom you know are specifically interested in this topic. You can email them new blog content, as well as set up additional autoresponders to help move them and guide them through your funnel into an eventual purchase.
How can social media help a company obtain sales leads?
Once you have one or more proper funnels set up, social media can become an invaluable asset.
First, all of that new content needs to be distributed to your social channels. People who are following you on social media should be interested; and in turn, they may share your content with their own networks.
Second, you should be using social media to connect with and engage not just readers and prospects, but also influencers and other experts in your niche. These are the people whom, if they tweet out a link to your latest blog post, could expose your content and business to entirely new audiences. So leverage that.
Finally, the combination of these activities when successful will lead to additional social signals and traffic to your site. The social signals provide "social proof" that others respect what you're doing, so that leaves a positive impression on new visitors. And the increased traffic sends positive signals to Google and helps your site's ranking in search.
Name one thing about email marketing that most companies are doing wrong.
The number one issue that most companies have with email marketing is simply that they aren't doing it consistently or at all. Every website and online business needs to have an email list and a way for site visitors to subscribe. Once subscribed, there needs to be regular communication to that list to keep them engaged. Once a business has the basics down, it's easier to advance to the level of digital downloads, content upgrades, exit-intent popups, autoresponders, welcome series, segmented offers, and so on.
What are some of the myths about blogging in terms of its effectiveness at attracting sales leads?
When it comes to blogging for sales leads, the most harmful myth is with regard to blogging itself: that somehow "to blog" still means to keep a kind of online journal or running commentary. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While you certainly can use a blog for such purposes, the best business blogs are used to provide helpful, informative pieces of content that are specifically tailored to be of interest to a business's target audience.
As a social media marketer, for instance, it's my job to write about the various social networks and specifically how to use them. As I attract more and more people who are researching how to do this or that on Facebook, they're self-identifying as people who are interested in learning more and getting help with Facebook.
If someone were to say to you, "I don't worry about analytics regarding my digital marketing campaigns. I only track the number of new leads I get," how would you respond?
If you're only tracking the raw number of new leads, that means you have no earthly idea where those leads are coming from. Are they spread out across all your posts and content? Or is it just one or two articles that are doing the heavy lifting? That's important to know because when armed with that knowledge, you can now make improvements to your existing content, as well as drive future initiatives with the proper knowledge.
For instance, I know that my article on How To Promote Blog Posts is one of my most effective pieces of content for lead generation. That knowledge empowers me to do two things:
1. Spend more time regularly updating and optimizing that piece of content to get even more leads.
2. Create additional content in the future that references or enhances that original piece of content.
It's also important to dig even deeper and see where that traffic is coming from. Are they finding your content via search? Specific social channels? How is that changing?
There isn't a site in the world whose audience isn't changing day by day. And for small businesses, those changes are often more impactful. A sudden drop in Google organic search traffic to your business could be fatal if that's your only driver of leads.
Talk about a new digital marketing tool that you're excited about.
One of my favorite digital marketing tools right now is AgoraPulse. The social media marketing tool is fantastic and the team at AgoraPulse is amazingly helpful and receptive. AgoraPulse is currently the top-rated social media marketing tool available when taking into account features, usability, cost, and support.
While it's great to be able to easily share and schedule posts to multiple social networks, what's particularly helpful about this tool is its monitoring capability. I'm able to quickly view and respond to a ton of mentions and direct messages on Twitter, then move on to Facebook and Instagram with ease.
In the future, what will digital marketing campaigns have to accomplish in order to be successful?
I think the most successful digital marketing campaigns will continue to understand the basic tenets of marketing and advertising. They will demonstrate real understanding and empathy toward their target audience, and use their content to educate, entertain, and engage. For the campaigns who keep doing that, the changes to technology and platforms will matter less.
Need to tweak your digital marketing to help bring in more leads? Contact us today to see how we can help.