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Here’s what lies on the road ahead for Google’s driverless cars

Driverless cars are among the few monumental innovations that represent the massive changes in daily life that will be brought about by new technological advancements. Transportation as we know it is changing, and computers are leading the charge.

The Google Self-Driving Car project

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12 Must-Read Books to Inspire Your Online Marketing

Peter Drucker once described learning as “a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change.” And as the rules of marketing continue to change and evolve, staying on top and in front of the latest trends, techniques and best practices is absolutely essential for today’s marketers. Books remain a great way to get inspiration and stay ahead of the marketing curve. So here’s a list of 12 marketing books that are sure to educate you and inspire your online marketing.

1. The New Rules of Marketing & PR

This is probably the most practical, inspiring and actionable marketing books I’ve ever read. Written by David Meerman Scott, The New Rules of Marketing & PR has been referred to as a “marketing bible” and “modern day business classic.” First published in 2007 and now in its fourth edition, Scott’s message was incredibly forward thinking and clearly spawned a generation of modern marketers. The book informs you how to use the power of the Internet to get your message across to the right people at the right time.

2. Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing author, Seth Godin, was called “the ultimate entrepreneur for the Information Age” by Business Week. His concept of “permission marketing” was the basis for “inbound marketing” and teaches marketers how to shape their message so that customers voluntarily accept it. Godin informs readers how the Internet enables you with the power to reach out only to consumers who have signaled an interest in learning more about your service or product—providing you with an edge over the widely ignored concept of interruption marketing. This tactic allows you to not only build brand awareness, but to create a relationship with potential customers and, most importantly, build trust.

3. Content Rules

Another one of my all-time favorites, Ann Hadley and C.C. Chapman’s Content Rules, teaches you how to stand out from the crowd in a digital world where everyone has been given a voice. This practical guide to creating engaging web content and building a loyal following can help you craft content that will cultivate fans and encourage them to share with others. Learn how to define your goals, write in a way to powerfully communicate these goals and use social media tools to distribute them as widely as possible.

4. Get Content, Get Customers

Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi and strategist Newt Barrett prove that customers want to consume content that they believe is useful rather than loud claims of product superiority. This is another one of the key books that helped start a seismic shift in the marketing community several years ago. In Get Content, Get Customers, you will learn how to develop this type of compelling content and deliver it in a way that doesn’t disrupt customers’ daily lives.

5. Inbound Marketing

Hubspot founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, teach marketers how to pull customers in rather than pushing their content out. Consumers have learned to block out traditional outbound marketing and are turning to platforms such as Google, social media, and blogs to find the products and services that they are searching for. Inbound Marketing shows you how to become easily found by customers online within these platforms.

6. Likeable Social Media

In Likeable Social Media, Dave Kerpen teaches that the secret to successful word-of-mouth marketing is to be “likeable.” It’s commonly known that a friend’s recommendation is far more powerful than any advertisement, and Kerpen shows how this can be used to your brand’s advantage on social media. Learn to listen to your customers and prospects and engage with them, and they will spread the word in return.

7. Optimize

Lee Odden, a leading authority on content and online marketing, teaches readers how to attract, engage and inspire customers using an “Optimize and Socialize” content marketing strategy. Optimize shows how his practical approach to integrating search and social media optimization with content marketing can boost relevance, visibility and engagement with your audience and his tactics have been proven to increase online performances.

8. Content is Currency

Jon Wuebben explains that content is much more than just the written page in this digital age. He explains how to present your business’ story through the use of web, mobile, podcasts, webinars and blog posts while providing insight into the fine art of content development and explaining the latest SEO and SMM techniques.

9. The Impact Equation

While anyone can write a blog post, not everyone can get 35,000 likes and 7,500 subscribers. In The Impact Equation, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith show how to get your message across by connecting with your audience. Learn how to find out what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong to figure out what makes a real impact on your audience.

10. UnMarketing

In UnMarketing, Scott Stratten teaches readers how to stop throwing yourself out at everyone and to draw the right customers in by providing new information on how to build relationships with your customers through social media. The days of cold calls are out.

11. The B2B Social Media Book

Hubspot’s Kipp Bodnar and Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Jeffrey L. Cohen show readers how to generate more leads and promote business growth through the use of proven social media strategies and their specific application to B2B companies. Learn the backbone of effective B2B social media strategies and receive advice on leveraging different social media platforms such as blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more.

12. Youtility

Jay Baers’ NY Times Best Seller and #1 Amazon Best Seller, Youtility, shows readers that they aren’t just competing against similar products in their online communities anymore, but that they are competing against the posts of customers’ friends and family, viral videos and popular memes. In order to be heard above all of the rest, Baers shares groundbreaking information on providing helpfulness to customers in order to remain a relevant part of their online experience.

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What about you? This list is not intended to be exhaustive, so are there any additional books you would add? Feel free to join to the conversation in the comments below.

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Successful B2B Online Marketing Programs Start With Strategy

While tactics and technology are often the focal point, a solid strategy should always be the foundation of a B2B online marketing program. Every component should be tied back to strategy, goals and metrics that set the program’s course.

It’s essential to create a strategically aligned game plan designed to attract prospects, convert leads, engage customers and measure results. How you go about defining your B2B online marketing strategy is up to you and the format, components and process vary from company to company. But here are some essentials that should be included in your strategy and planning process.

Align with your business strategy and goals

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s easy for marketing to focus on goals and achievements that aren’t necessarily tied to the goals of the company. For example, doubling your website traffic, gaining followers on social media and receiving tons of downloads of your latest eBook aren’t of much value if they don’t help the company achieve their revenue goals. While those achievements may help to accomplish the goals of the company, they’re simply a means and not the end. So it’s important for marketing to stay focused on the ultimate purpose of the online marketing program—achieving the strategic business goals and revenue targets of the company.

Set goals and define KPI’s

With that said, you still have to establish goals for your online marketing efforts to know what is working, what is not working and what needs to be adjusted. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) play a critical role in helping you track the ongoing performance of your B2B online marketing program. Obviously the end goal is revenue, so with that as a starting point, determine how many new customers are needed, how many leads it will take to get those new customers and how many visitors, downloads, shares, etc. it will take to generate those leads. Come up with a list of KPIs for each component of your program—website, social media, email marketing, content marketing, blog and landing pages—and create a dashboard of metrics and track your progress daily.

Analyze your marketing and benchmark against the competition

How does your marketing stack up to your competition? While there’s no need to be preoccupied with what your competition is doing, it’s important to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their brand and online marketing efforts. What are they doing well? What can you do better? With simple observation and by using an advanced online competitive analysis tool found in many marketing automation platforms, you’ll be able to identify opportunities and develop strategies for improving your own marketing.

Develop buyer persona profiles

Creating buyer persona profiles is a way to help you visually picture the type of people you are trying to reach and understand on a deeper level—their wants, needs, interests, questions and pain points. B2B purchasing decisions are typically made with a lot of consideration beforehand—especially for larger purchases. So you need to understand how and why a buyer makes a decision to choose your company, a competitor or make no purchase at all. Personas help you better understand this decision making process so your content and messaging will be more relevant, valuable and ultimately persuasive.

Map content to the customer lifecycle

Once you have identified your personas and the journey they typically follow from visitor to prospect, prospect to lead, lead to customer and customer to evangelist, you can start to identify the types of content and topics that will resonate most with those personas at each stage of the customer lifecycle. Content should play a role in every stage of the lifecycle to help create awareness, generate leads, convert leads into customers and turn customers into evangelists.

Produce a content roadmap

Now that you’ve identified your personas and their content needs, you need to create a content roadmap to keep your efforts on course. Your content roadmap is a quarterly plan for the content you’re going to create (whitepapers, eBooks, webinars etc.) and the topics you’re going to cover on your blog, social media and emails. The roadmap also identifies who is going to be responsible for the creation and when it will be published. In addition to specifying your content efforts a quarter out, it’s also important to include long-term plans for content and keep a running list of other topics that you might want to cover in the future.

Create premium offers and inbound campaigns

Premium offers and inbound campaigns are at the heart of B2B lead generation. With your audience and content needs identified, you need to create premium offers such as eBooks, whitepapers, webinars, demos, free consultations, etc. that will attract prospects at various stages of the buying cycle. A premium offer should have enough perceived value in order for a visitor to be willing to give you some personal information in exchange for it. Not everyone is ready to buy (in fact, only 3% of first time visitors are) so it’s important to have offers that speak to the different needs of each audience and create inbound campaigns that attract prospects to your website and landing pages.

Determine what defines a qualified lead

Almost nothing can make the sales team more frustrated than following up with unqualified leads that they receive from marketing. Because what marketing defines as a lead may not be what sales or business development defines as a qualified lead. So in order to stay focused on the best opportunities and avoid sending unqualified leads to the sales department, it’s necessary to sit down with both marketing and sales and determine what constitutes a qualified lead. Once you’ve got that definition from sales, it could be that what they deem as unqualified might just need some nurturing efforts from marketing over the course of several weeks or even months before they’re ready to be passed off to sales.

Optimize your website for lead generation

The role of the website in B2B marketing has undergone a significant change over the last several years. While previously intended to be little more than an online brochure for non-ecommerce businesses, much more is expected of B2B websites in today’s online dominated marketing landscape. Many B2B websites were not designed with lead generation and content marketing in mind and thus lack the features, content, functionality, landing pages, search engine optimization, marketing automation and analytics necessary to attract visitors, generate leads and create new business opportunities. So is your website optimized for online marketing? If not, you’ll need to transform your current website or it could be time to develop a new website altogether.

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A successful B2B online marketing program is intentional and meticulously planned and executed. And it all starts with a solid game plan that serves to set the course and guide the tactics that drive your efforts. So while it can be tempting, you can’t just jump straight to tactics and expect to get results¬—at least not the measureable and long-term results that your company desires.

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Improving Lead Generation and Conversion Rates Using A/B Testing

To maximize the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts, it’s important to be constantly testing and optimizing your campaigns. A/B testing is a way for marketers to test different variables and see which are the most effective at generating leads and conversions

A/B testing can provide actionable, measurable and (sometimes) immediate results. Often the smallest change can make a big difference. We’ll walk through the basics of A/B testing, what to test, what to measure and how to get started.

Defining A/B Testing

A/B testing is a pretty simple concept. You essentially use two versions of an element with one changed variable and test each version on a different sample. This could be something as simple as two different subject lines in an email or two different landing page layouts. In the end, you choose the version that brings a better response rate and then use it moving forward. It can help you increase effectiveness without having to increase visitors. For example just changing the wording of a CTA button could dramatically increase your conversion rate.

Ways to Utilize A/B Testing

A/B testing can be used to test a variety of elements in your marketing program. Here are some different ways it can be utilized:

1. Call-to-Action buttons – You need to make sure you create the most “click-worthy” CTAs in order to maximize your conversion rate. A simple button has many different elements that you can test. For example, the wording on the button (Download Now vs. Get the eBook), location on the page (top, bottom, left, right), style of button (simple vs. gradient), size (small or large), color, etc. Start with one variable and slowly test different changes over time.

2. Landing pages – When you create a landing page for a premium content download, webinar or other purpose, the design of the page, the headline and the supporting copy can have a large impact on conversions. Test out different designs and layouts, but remember to only change one aspect at a time. If you have two versions, send half of the visitors to one and half to the other. Over time you’ll be able to see which version is the most successful and why.

3. Form fields and length – The type of information you ask and the number of fields on your form can have a dramatic impact on conversions. Marketers always want as much information as they can get from a prospect, but, depending on the offer, a prospect might not be as inclined to fill out a form if it is too long or asks too many detailed questions (i.e. budget). Try testing different forms to see if it makes a difference. We would also recommend using progressive profiling as an alternative way to balance form fields and length.

4. Email subject lines – Subject lines can make or break your email campaigns and are often the reason people decide to open your email or delete it. Before sending out an email to your entire segment or list, test 2 different subject lines on a small sample, then send the winning to the remaining contacts in your list to optimize your email for the most success.

5. Email sender names – Sometimes changing the person who is sending the email makes a difference in open rates. Are your emails being sent from your president, sales rep or just your company’s info address? Sometimes an email coming directly from a sales rep that has an established relationship with the contact will get a larger open rate than an email from your CEO. Test and see what makes a difference.

6. Images – Test different images on your landing pages or emails to see if they make a difference with clickthroughs, views or downloads. Supporting images to your content and offers can determine different actions by visitors.

7. Length of copy ¬– Whether it is an email or a landing page, sometimes a shorter message is better, or a longer explanation is needed. Test different lengths of copy to see which engages your clients more to take the action you want.

Getting started

When getting started, one of the most important parts of an A/B test is to keep it simple and only change one variable. For example, if you are sending an email and want to test the subject line, make sure the body of the email is exactly the same in both emails. Don’t change the subject line AND the length of the email because it is harder to see what made the real difference in conversions.

Also, be aware that not all tests will have a statistically significant result. This did not mean that you failed; it just means it doesn’t make a big difference. Find another aspect that can be tested and test again. One last thing to remember: don’t trust your gut—trust the results! Your personal preference might not be the best approach to take, which is where the science of A/B testing is so helpful.

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A/B testing is an ongoing process. Each time you test, you take any knowledge you gain and try to apply that in the future. As you write more content, create more landing pages or make changes to your website, A/B testing can help you see what is working so you can improve your marketing efforts.

Interested in improving lead generation and conversion rates? Click here to contact us or call us on +254 713 047 177 or drop us an email at info@sadorit.com