Today we continue our journey in the land of inbound marketing tools. Hopefully you find the right tools for your business and then can successfully integrate into your marketing plan.
In spite of the fact that so many projects are completed under capabilities but over scope and budget, many companies, especially technology companies fail to recognize the importance of good project management.
In fact, according to the project Management Institute, only some 16% of projects are completed on time and on budget. In technology, it’s even worse.
The most common misbelief is that as long as a technology company has cutting edge technology and top-notch technology experts, everything is fine and dandy.
Yes, they all use some project management software, but there is no one in the company that is a skilled project manager.
I say “skilled” not necessarily certified.
We all know that nowadays you can get certified in anything and can even get a university degree, even a Ph.D., in weird subjects like Beatles studies (BA and MA at Liverpool Hope University), Oprah studies (BA and MA at the University of Illinois), packaging studies (B.S., M.S. and Ph. D. at Michigan State University) or puppetry (BFA, MFA and MA at the University of Connecticut).
There is a broad range of software tools available, but before you select a tool, make sure you select the right person.
If possible, hire a project manager who has subject matter expertise both in your domain and, even more importantly, in your target market’s domain.
If you’re seeking a project manager and your target market is manufacturing companies, instead of hiring just anyone with an MBA and PMP (Project Management Professional certified by the Project Management Institute), hire someone with a background in engineering and operations management.
In the best engineering schools, especially in Europe, project management is part of the standard engineering curriculum.
Or as Joe Calloway put it in his book, Work Like You’re Showing Off: The Joy, Jazz, and Kick of Being Better Tomorrow Than You Were Today…
“In the 1980s, I learned a lot about the power of taking action when working with army officers. Each summer for five years, I led a series of one-week seminars on management and leadership, each of which ended with a two-day class project. What impressed me about these officers was that after I gave them the instructions for a rather complicated and involved project, they simply turned to each other, wrote their action plan, and got to work. When I did the same exercise with civilian groups, there were usually so many questions about what to do and how to do it that I finally had to cut them off so there would be time to do the project.”
B2B Search engine optimization is another field that changes breathtakingly quickly. As Google, Yahoo or Bing fiddles with its algorithms, you have to be really on the ball to keep up with the changes.
And not only to keep up, but to implement the required changes as effectively as possible, knowing that every non-optimized page on your website can be a costly deal.
But just as in other areas, in the SEO arena too, there are more tools than you could shake a stick at. Some are free, some are for businesses on budget and some are truly kick-butt big guns.
You have to decide what your business can justify and how big of your overall marketing is based on SEO.
Obviously, if you do both SEO and PPC, you have to split your online budget, but you just have to make one of them your primary- and the other the secondary online inbound marketing tactic.
Some of the most popular tools are Moz, Raven, Web CEO or Marketing Samurai
Social Media Management Tools
We all know how much of a role social media played in former US president Barack Obama’s and the next president Donald Trump’s election successes.
I reckon, despite their busyness, they invested time and effort in social media because they were confident in the payback. And it worked out nicely for both of them.
We can’t escape. Social media is here to stay and there is not a sausage we can do about it.
While years ago, many business people called Facebook and Twitter over-hyped fads, they turned from fads to tends, and the hype, even if there was any, has been ironed out of them.
Today, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Instagram and other platforms are significant parts of any business. Maybe not all of them, but many definitely ought to be.
Mashable has created a guide for beginners about TweetDeck, one of the best tools to manage your Twitter feed and other social media channels.
Besides TweetDeck, some other tools are Hootsuite, Buffer or Hubspot’s Social Inbox.
Forrester has a report, Unraveling The Social Technology Web, and that goes deep into comparing social medic platforms.
Team Collaboration & Communication Tools
No matter how good your other tools are, if your team members can’t communicate with each other in a timely manner, rather sooner than later you can have a small rebellion on your hands.
By having your people work remotely, either from clients’ locations or from their home offices, the face-to-face interaction often has to be replaced with technology and that’s a tall order. It also means that communication loses some of the dynamics inherent in face-to-face communication.
It’s like converting a lossless “.wav” sound file into a lossy “.mp3” file. You save a lot of space but lose quite a bit of quality.
But we can use some tools to compensate for the loss of face-to-face.
The tools in this area too cover a pretty big territory.
For instance, iMeet Central is a complete virtual office where collaborators can hang out and exchange information.
Hipchat, Slack, Google Talk or Google Hangouts are team interaction tools.
Process Street is a tool for designing, building and storing workflows, checklists and operating procedures. Just remember what Michael Gerber has taught us in the E-Myth Revisited and Sam Carpenter in Work the System (get your free PDF copy and mp3 audio): It’s all about systems. Using the old K.I.S.S. acronym, I could even say, “Keep It Systematized, Silly!”
Granted, as an engineer, I’m biased for systems, but even if I were a breath odour evaluator (yes, it exists), ostrich babysitter (in South Africa) or even a professional apologizer (in Japan), I would still bet my money on systems.
Mind you, considering that, at an obscure stage of my life, I bankrupted myself and ended up homeless, clearly shows that I too make a pig’s ear of some of my bets.
Time Tracking, Finances & Accounting Tools
I know, pretty much all over the world, Quickbooks is the undisputed big gun of accounting systems.
But, for many businesses, Quickbooks is overkill.
A great option is Freshbooks combined with its own credit card processing system Freshbooks Select. They both are especially for small- and medium-sized businesses.
However, make sure you ask your accountant and she can tell you whether or not, in your specific case, it is a good idea to move over to another accounting system.
Web Conferencing & Webinar Platforms
Well, a good few years ago virtual interaction was limited to the telephone, but it’ all about video conferencing.
Yes, it costs a bit more, but the big advantage is that people can see each other, which significantly enhances the quality of the interaction and presenters’ ability to build trust with their audiences.
Let’s remember people attend webinars for two reasons…
- Learn something new to advance their businesses.
- Get to know the presenters in case attendees need further help.
And webinars are one of the most interesting ways of educating people. It’s the closes imitation of classroom tuition. Yet, what makes it different from pure classroom education is that after the webinar, a small percentage of attendees start implementing the newly learnt materials.
The heart of inbound marketing is great content, but its souls is certainly to apply that content in an effective way, so people can consume it and use what they’ve learnt from your content.
The process is similar to inviting some friends for dinner. When they arrive, they expect the dinner to be more or less ready and the table to be laid.
If you ask your dinner guests to kill and puck the chicken, peel the potatoes and onions and mince the garlic, they’re likely to run away.
Just as a good dinner has to be ready for consumption, so does good content.
And to present good content, you need a reliable platform.
Some of the most popular webinar tools are Cisco’s Webex, Zoom, Join Me or Citrix’s Go To Webinar. These solutions are not exactly penny items, but are worth investing in if you plan to do webinars on a more or less ongoing basis.
If you offer multi-module online educational programs, you can check out Thinkific. While the above tools are ideal for presenting individual webinars, Thinkific hosts pre-recorded multi-part online educational program (audio, video, notes, curriculum and all) as a membership site. Participants can log in and put whenever they want to move to the next lesson of the programme.
And if you feel a bit rusty on your video skills, here you can read How to Effectively Use Video in Your Content Marketing Strategy.
Website Management Tools
As the old saying goes, every road leads to Rome. With your website’s being the hub of all your inbound marketing, it has to be a in top web-shape condition to receive the daily load of visitors and their requirements.
Depending on the nature of your website, you have several options from self-hosted WordPress, Joomla or Drupal to centrally hosted solutions like, Squarespace, VIX or Shopify (for e-commerce sites).
Here is PC Magazines’ web builder comparison.
Write down on a piece of paper what you want your website to be able to do, and then you can work backwards to list all the features you need.
And now the content.
Make sure that the following pages on your website are optimized for inbound marketing: Your home page (index), your “about us” page, your blog page and your “contact us” page.
Diagramming & Wireframe Tools
I tried to organize the headings alphabetically, but some headings came to mind after I’d finished the first part.
And one of the victims is Diagramming.
This is important because high-level concepts are easier to digest in one “visual gulp” than reading about them over multiple pages of text.
Then we need the text later to explain the dirt-level details of the concept, but initially, we’re better off with effective diagrams.
Just like for everything else, there are lots of tools for diagramming. I’ve been a Smartdraw user since 2011, and find it very effective.
But you check can any of the packages listed below, and they’ll do a fine job SmartDraw, Lucidcharts, Google Draw (free), Gliffy, Omnigraffle for Mac.
Although inbound marketing is a great concept, it comes with a pretty big caveat. One reason is that it’s heavily technology driven, and you need all the technology pieces in place to get started.
It’s like a car really. You need to buy the whole car if you want to use it. You can’t just buy some handpicked parts and call it reliable transportation.
So, you have to fully set up the system before you can use it and make your first dollar.
And this is the dilemma.
Many people complain that the tools are expensive. Maybe.
Let’s look at scaling a business.
Traditionally, businesses are scaled by increasing or decreasing headcount. The problem is that humans are inconsistent and their performance is unpredictable.
Inbound marketing requires very few people because it’s scaled by technology. And unlike humans, technology is consistent and fairly predictable.
The Brits calls it swings and roundabouts. That is, what you save on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts.
The difference is that you can save quite a lot on the swings by employing fewer people, and you lose just a little on the roundabouts by investing in technology.
Let’s keep Bill Gates’s quotation in mind…
“A great lathe operator commands several times the wage of an average lathe operator, but a great software code writer is worth 10,000 times the price of an average software writer.”
And I dare to say, this statement applies to any knowledge worker.
So, you either go low on technology and hire lots of people or go high on technology and hire just a few people.
Just think of Google employees. Annual revenue per employee at Google is $1,154,896 (Here’s how much tech giants like Apple and Google make per employee ).
At IBM, this number is $244,447. Roughly 20% Google’s productivity. But Google doesn’t pay 5-time more than IBM. Google pays a “bit” more than IBM to attract 10,000-times more productive professionals.
So, to reap the benefits of good inbound marketing, you need both great systems and a few talented people. And if you have to compromise at the beginning, aim a tad lower on tools but top notch people.
When Yahoo ($425,076 revenue per employee) started, the policy was to acquire the best technology and lots of “inexpensive” people.
By contrast, when Google started, it acquired mainstream off-the-shelf technology and the best people available.
So, no matter how technology-driven inbound marketing is, the real difference will come from your people. Pay attention to them.
Although we’ve covered a number of tools in the two parts of this article, but if you’d like to review more tools, there is good news for you.
LeadGenius, in collaboration with Prezi and Ambition, has released The 2017 Trends & Tech Guide for B2B Sales & Marketing.
Each chapter deals with one aspect of sales and marketing technology and offers some of the best tools to choose from.
Stay Tuned for Inbound Marketing Tools of the Trade Part 3