NOTE: This blog post was originally written for an appeared on the NEXT Marketing Agency’s website, which is no longer in use. I am posting it here to showcase a reference to my portfolio. This post explains the writing I did for this marketing agency: Being a marketing writer / ghost blogger for a marketing agency
There are smarty pants out there who have figured out that the way to get the best health advice is to ask your doctor what vitamins they take and to ask your eye surgeon if they’ve ever had laser eye surgery before. The way to get the best tax savings advice is to find out what your CGA writes off as part of their own business. And where exactly do chefs do their grocery shopping that makes their food taste so different from ours?
Ever wonder where marketers get their advice from? Or what marketing tools they use for their own businesses? Well, we’re about to let you in on some trade secrets. While we can’t say that our marketing company uses every one of the items listed below, we can say that these tools are a marketer’s dream come true. Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s dive in!
Marketing tool #1: Project Management Software (Basecamp)
Yes that’s right, we said Basecamp – that project management software by 37 Signals. Why is this first on the list and not some crazy data analytics marketing future-telling magic 8 ball? Because if we didn’t have systems and processes set up in our business operations, we would be nowhere. Being an agency requires that you are able to juggle multiple projects at once, and keep four times as many people happy all at the same time.
So what does Basecamp do for us? It allows us to set up projects online where more than one team member can view their assignments and the boss lady can see where the company is progressing, and what needs her attention. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment, since our crossed off to do list is so satisfying to look at (hey, everyone needs some sort of motivation!)
Marketing tool #2: Marketing guru blogs
Marketers are always learning – this industry moves fast, especially now that the Internet has invaded our job descriptions. To keep up with what’s happening in the industry, marketers refer to thought-leading blogs such as:
This is an Internet marketing blog started by the people who made it popular to have a little pop up question box at the bottom of your web site, so you could find out more than just numbers about your users’ buying process. Turns out, they were successful Internet marketers when they started, so they pulled out their tool boxes and started a blog that got so much traction, it made their little question pop up box lots of money. Sounds like a couple o’ guys you’d want to learn from right? We thought so.
Won’t say much about this blog except that it is run by one of the founding partners of KISSmetrics noted above, so you should read this one too.
This is a collection of posts by expert marketers and releases case studies, reports, how-to articles and more for marketers to get in-the-know. They also put on events.
This site runs like a research institute in the realm of marketing, gathering data, industry statistics and reports that show trends in marketing. They also have hand books, events, and offer some material for sale.
Those should keep you busy for a while. There are many more we could mention in this category (Seth Godin’s blog, Chris Brogan’s blog, etc.) but there’s more to share, so we’ll move on.
Marketing tool #3: Data, analytics and other measuring tools
Remember, in marketing, we must always operate with the business motive in mind – to turn a profit. It’s true that some aspects of our job are not measureable, and we can’t always foretell the future with mere numbers, projections and goals, but we sure can learn from our experiences and efforts in the past. Taking a look at our Google Analytics dashboard for example is one of the basic steps we can take to see if our web site traffic has increased or decreased, what blog posts were the most successful, what our top exit pages are and so on. There is always going to be room for improvement and learning.
Marketing tool #4: Accounting tools
We also need to take time to reflect on our books. For creative people like marketers, finance is not that exciting, but it has to be done. We have accountants and CGAs to help us out, but as business owners, not just marketers, we ourselves need to know whether our budgets are being wisely spent and if we are returning a profit on our own marketing efforts. The numbers can say a lot.
Freshbooks is a great online billing tool that works well for marketing consultants who like to stay in the cloud. More exhaustive businesses may need something more complex like QuickBooks or Sage 50 Accounting (formerly known as Simply Accounting). We’d love to hear your own input on accounting software in the comments below!
Marketing tool # 5: Web site gotta-have’s
Web sites are no toys, and it goes without question that nothing should interfere with a strong online presence these days. For that reason marketers use the following tools to keep them ahead of the game:
A Content Management System
Our Web sites need to be robust and built well enough that we can grow as an organization without leaving our online presence behind. For this reason, we at NEXT use WordPress as our Content Management System, which is now running over 16% of the Internet. For us it’s a no brainer to use WordPress. It’s easy for us to blog, make changes and even to outsource technical skills for (many Web developers nowadays are experts in WordPress, which means we’re not tied down to one person’s code).
Fast, secure hosting
We also saw a need for speed when it came to our hosting, and found great improvements when we switched to WPEngine hosting. This is an all-inclusive Web hosting company that specializes in WordPress, and took out a lot of ‘extra’ factors for us to consider, such as a backup system; we were able to cancel our VaultPress account since WPEngine offers daily backups and one-click restores for us.
If your company doesn’t want to go with a managed host or isn’t on WordPress, be sure to:
a) Make sure your site is secure, using something like Sucuri.
b) Keep daily backups (for WordPress use VaultPress or BackupBuddy).
c) Have a host that offers 24/7 support and will help you as an included service if your site gets hacked into.
We know that people go online to search for services now – it’s hard to find anyone who still keeps a hard copy of the Yellow Pages lying around. Good SEO is as important of an investment as your web site itself. It can rapidly increase your sales, bring you more traffic and get your brand out there faster. Good SEO is long-term SEO, which means it’s slow to start but can pick up momentum and do your business far more favours than the money you put into it. It’s a no brainer.
Getting this done well falls into our category below of finding talented people. There is no software that can automate good quality SEO for you, so a skilled human being needs to take care of it for best results. However, there are professional (paid) tools like Market Samurai and Screaming Frog that can give you an indictor of the keywords you should be targeting, what your competition is up to, and lot more that can help with those SERPs. For a free keyword research tool try Google Adwords’ keyword search, though keep in mind its data won’t be very exhaustive.
Last but certainly not least: Talented people
Yes, that’s right, us marketers seem like super heroes on the outside, but we couldn’t do our jobs if we didn’t have access to the right talent for our clients. We spend a long time searching for the right fit and skill to work with us. You will notice that at NEXT, we have a team of NEXT Certified marketing consultants who make up our team of graphic designers, web site traffic builders, content writers, web developers and more. We also need project managers and just like every other business, we need our trusty accountants and lawyers and industry advisors to keep us thriving.
Finding good people to work for your business is time consuming and not easy. If you can, use head hunting services or resources like LinkedIn to scout new recruits for your business. Don’t just put out job postings, since lots of people in that pool may be desperate to falsely impress you at first (though innocently). Do a mix of both.
That’s all for today folks!
This article could go on further to explain what books we read and what conferences we attend, and even the interior decorators we use for our office space to keep our creative minds working. But we thought we’d let you ask the questions from this point forward – what do you want to know about what we know? We’ll do our best to give you our best tips and pointers! Leave a comment below!