Shift-inbound-marketing

What You Can Learn from Shift’s Inbound Marketing Strategy

Shift-inbound-marketing

In this post, I will provide a comprehensive inbound marketing audit for Shift.

Before we dive into the inbound marketing audit, let’s cover the basics…

Who is Shift?

Shift is a Salesforce.com Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner that I selected from the Salesforce AppExchange. They are headquartered in Toronto, have an office in Vancouver and regional presence in Ottawa, New York State and Los Angeles. Shift delivers expert service and flawless rapid implementations of Salesforce from start to end. Think of Shift as a strategic growth engine for your business. With personalized service, strategy, implementation, and support for the Salesforce/Force.com platform, you can truly turn positive change into positive ROI.

Why Shift?

Like everyone working in inbound marketing, we all overlook or miss things (even the basics). The goal of this post is to help Shift, and others, to learn ways to improve their online marketing, as well as to give a third-party perspective on a successful company.

To be fair, “audit” sounds like a terrible word, but in this case I ask that you think of “audit” as a metaphor for “being helpful”. The purpose of this audit is to give an outsider’s view of a great company. I hope that Jason and his marketing team find this post helpful.

Disclaimer

Before I jump into the nitty gritty of the inbound audit, it’s important to note that I have no affiliation with Shift. Shift did not ask me to perform this audit. As a result, I don’t have access to any of the site’s analytics or webmaster tools accounts, and I don’t have access to any of their back end marketing automation systems – if they have one.

In a typical audit, I would begin by sifting through the data and then narrowing in on problem issues. So, if I make wildly inaccurate observations, I blame my data from third party tools (Quicksprout, Moz, etc…). These tools are very helpful; however, first party tools do provide better information.

The goal of this audit is to help Shift. The aim is never to critique in a non-constructive, harmful way, but instead, to help Shift to improve their inbound marketing by giving them the perspective of an objective third party. With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s begin.

Note: If you have questions, please use the comment form below.

Since this post will be fairly long, here is a summary of what I’ve covered to help you understand where you are throughout this audit.

Website

  1. Home page optimization

Traffic Generation

  1. Blogging
  2. SEO

Lead Generation

  1. Calls to Action
  2. Landing Pages
  3. Premium Content Offers
  4. List Building

Social Media

  1. Twitter
  2. LinkedIn

Summary

  1. Key take aways

Website

If you had to pick just one reason to have a website, what would it be? For most companies, I would say that it would be to give prospective customers information about your company so that you can help them to become customers.

In other words, the primary purpose of a website should be to generate leads for the sales team to close.

When it comes to lead generation, the home page isn’t actually the most important part of the website; however, as the home page usually gets a large amount of traffic, it’s still a pretty important page to get right.

As we’ll see later in my audit, the blog is the place where most leads are captured, and so I will be paying special attention to Shift’s blog in just a bit.

But first…let’s talk about Shift’s home page.

Overall, I quite like Shift’s website. Their site runs on WordPress and uses a mobile responsive theme. The site looks modern, is well designed, and will display properly on any device thanks to the theme they are using.

What They Do Right

Above the fold on their home page, they have two ways to capture leads; an eBook and a form to request a consultation.

shift-home

Below the fold they do a terrific job of ensuring that a first time visitor knows that they are a Salesforce.com platinum partner and they also display a few of the clients they work with. From a social proof perspective, this is excellent.

Then, below that (highlighted in red) they have some copy that tells the visitor that they are the right Salesforce consultant to help transform your organization.

Shift-below-fold

Overall, Shift has done a pretty darn good job of their home page. It is much better than most that I see.

Where They Could Improve

If I was being really nit picky, I would suggest the following.

See the area I have highlighted in red? I would suggest that they change the wording here a bit…but given how far down the page this is, it’s really not that big of a deal. The reason I think that there is room for improvement in this snippet of copy is that it doesn’t really use language that a potential client would use to describe their problems.

For example, let’s assume that a common problem for Shift’s potential clients is that they struggle with converting leads to customers (a pretty common problem).

If that was the case, and it was a top priority for a large number of the companies in the target market Shift is going after, I would change the wording to something like this:

Companies come to Shift when they are having trouble converting leads into customers. This is often the result of having gaps in their sales process as well as an under utilized implementation of Salesforce.com software. Our best clients are companies that rely on Salesforce.com and a direct sales team to sell high value, complex offerings to sophisticated buyers that are likely to remain clients for years. For companies like this, our award-winning team brings technical, strategic, and industry-specific expertise to your Salesforce.com implementation or enhancement project to ensure you get the best results possible.

When writing copy like this, the key is to describe the problem you solve using the same words that your customer would use to describe the problem.

I would also move the link to the blog from the smaller secondary navigation bar to the main navigation bar. With heat map testing, we could easily determine if a move like this generated more clicks.

The only other area of the home page that I think would benefit from some minor tweaking would be the request a consultation form at the very top. I do like the idea of offering visitors this call to action; however, I’m not a fan on how much real estate they have used for it.

If I were redesigning that portion of the home page, I would emulate what I’ve shown in the two examples below.

Examples of Highly Optimized Home Pages

Below are screenshots of HubSpot and Copyblogger. I know both companies very well and they are both extremely successful with their online marketing.

I have included these screenshots because both companies have done a very good job of their home pages (plus I know they both split test like crazy so you can be sure that whatever they are doing is working very well).

In HubSpot’s case, they make it very obvious that they are focused on helping their customers to grow their business, and they have 11,500 customers as proof. It’s pretty hard to argue with that kind of proof.

For a call to action, they offer either a free trial of their software, or link to learn more about the software. As well, a link to their blog is prominently displayed on the nav bar.

hubspot-above-fold

In Copyblogger’s case, they are promoting their new Rainmaker platform and the headline they’ve chosen tells visitors that if they are using WordPress, their Rainmaker platform is going to greatly simplify their lives, at an affordable cost. Their calls to action include the option to watch a video (which is VERY well done), take a tour, or sign up for a free trial.
copyblogger-above-fold

Traffic Generation

Now that we have spent some time reviewing their home page, let’s have a look at what Shift is doing to generate traffic. If a site isn’t getting much traffic, it can’t be generating very many leads, so traffic is pretty important.

As you can see below, Shift’s traffic rank (data from Alexa) is 1,022,694. In other words, they aren’t getting very much traffic.

When a site isn’t generating much traffic, it is generally for one of two reasons:

  1. Not enough content
  2. Content no one wants to read

With only 145 indexed pages, Shift doesn’t have a lot of content, so that is part of the problem. However, you’ll notice that our own site has just 207 pages of content, yet we get the most traffic of the five sites I’ve compared below.

I’ll touch more on the reasons for this when I audit their blog a little further down.

ShiftCRM-traffic-report

To give you context on how Alexa ranking relates to traffic, Groove’s site, which is ranked at 104,805 for traffic, received 12,070 visitors in the 30 days leading up to Sep 25, 2014.

groove-traffic-to-sept25

Blogging

As you can see from the screenshot below, blogging can have a dramatic impact on the amount of traffic and leads generated so it’s incredibly important to ensure that your blogging strategy is an effective one.

Source: Hubspot's 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

Source: Hubspot’s 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

The reason that Shift’s site receives so little traffic is that the content they are publishing to their blog isn’t getting traction. While I don’t have access to their analytics, I’m quite sure my assumption is correct because the posts that they have published have very little in the way of social shares. If the posts were getting read, people would be sharing them on their social networks.

There are a number of possible reasons why their blog isn’t getting traction.

The most likely reason is because they are publishing content that no one cares about. Whenever I see this, it’s generally because they haven’t invested the time to create an inbound marketing strategy. There is a very specific process to be followed with inbound marketing, and it starts with strategy.

The very first step in creating this strategy is to understand who you are trying to attract (buyer persona), what they care about, and the questions they are asking. Skip this, and your efforts are likely to fail – as appears to be the case with Shift’s blog.

Here’s a list of their 5 most recent blog post titles:

  • Salesforce CRM as an experience management tool
  • Usability: A critical component of CRM software
  • Salesforce healthcare solutions: A supply chain asset?
  • User Interface: Our take on salesforce.com Summer ’14 Release
  • Many businesses have yet to deploy CRM programs

The post titles you choose are incredibly important because if your post title fails to grab the attention of your target audience (buyer persona), they aren’t going to read it.

For the purposes of this audit, let’s assume for the moment that Shift has done a good job of identifying topics their target market is interested in (which I don’t believe they have done). IF that was the case, then some headlines that I think would generate more page views would be as follows:

  • 3 Ways to Leverage Salesforce CRM as an Experience Management Tool
  • Is Usability a Critical Component of CRM for Today’s Leading Organizations?
  • Are Salesforce Healthcare Solutions Making Your Supply Chain Sick?
  • 5 Ways Salesforce.com’s New User Interface Will Boost Productivity 10-20% or More
  • The Real Cost of Not Having a CRM in Today’s Competitive Marketplace

As a further example of the importance of blog post titles, have a look at the last five post titles on HubSpot’s (very) popular blog:

  • Want to Improve Your Blog’s Conversion Rates? 11 Tests to Try
  • Are These the Best Campaigns of the Year? Grand CLIO’s 2014 Award Winners
  • How (and Why) to Simplify Your Sales Incentive Plan
  • Language Matters: How to Communicate More Effectively With Your Team
  • How to Use New Anonymous Targeting to Get Sales Faster

How to Get Clicks

An effective blog post title makes the reader curious enough to click through and read the post. Of course, if the post is crap, they won’t stay around long, so getting the post right is also an incredibly important part of successful blogging.

For Shift, it looks like the bigger problem with their blog is that they aren’t creating content that people are interested in reading. This is most likely because they haven’t identified their target buyer personas as well as a list of topics that they are interested in reading.

Field_and_Stream_2013-06To do this requires an organization to think more like a media company.

Thinking like a media company – like a magazine – requires that you focus on publishing content that your target audience actually wants to read. That can sometimes mean that you are publishing content that has nothing to do with your product.

For example, Field & Stream publishes a wide variety of articles that are of interest to it’s target audience. Then, to monetize their publication, they sell advertising around the articles.

Think of your blog like a magazine with your company as one of it’s advertisers. If you only write articles about your product, most people won’t care.

To be successful, you need to write about what they want to read as doing so will allow you to build an audience that will then give you permission to send them marketing messages about your products and services.

Blogging Summary

Getting traffic isn’t hard once you understand the process, and you avoid some pretty common mistakes. The key is to be interesting to your target personas.

SEO

When it comes to getting traffic, more content is better.

Source: Hubspot's 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

Source: Hubspot’s 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

With more content, you create an opportunity for more inbound links, and as you can see below, Shift’s site has only 17 back links.

A low number of backlinks is another indicator that very few people are interested in the content you are publishing. If people love your content, they link to it.

shift-quicksprout-report

While not as important as they used to be, inbound links do still play a role in SEO.

Lead Generation

When it comes to lead generation, the #1 influencer is content (more content = more traffic), and the easiest way to consistently create more content is to have a blog.

Source: Hubspot's 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

Source: Hubspot’s 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

In looking at Shift’s blog posts, I noticed that none of the ones that I looked at had a graphical call to action. Without this in place, it’s simply not realistic to hope that people will read a blog post and then navigate their way over the the ‘contact us’ page.

This is very likely killing their conversion rate.

If you are going to successfully convert a portion of your website traffic into leads, there is a specific process to be followed in order to maximize your conversion rate. To see a shining example of perfection, have a look at any blog post on HubSpot’s very popular blog.

When you do, you will see that there is a compelling Call to Action at the bottom of every blog post. Generating leads with way is also very cost effective!

cost-of-inbound-leads

Calls to Action

Here’s an example of a call to action. We put these at the bottom of every blog post. So does HubSpot. So does Appirio on this post.

SalesforcePartnereBookCTA

Without a proper call to action in place, it’s very unrealistic to expect that more than about 0.5% of your total traffic is going to convert to leads. With optimized calls to action in place, converting 2-3% of total traffic to leads is quite achievable.

When it comes to quickly increasing conversion rate, adding blog articles with calls to action is the low hanging fruit.

Landing Pages

As with content, the more landing pages a site has, the more leads it will generate.

Source: Hubspot's 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

Source: Hubspot’s 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

When clicked, a call to action should take the visitor to a landing page.

I was only able to find one landing page on Shift’s site. As you can see from the data above, having more landing pages generates more leads.

Below is a screenshot of Shift’s landing page. I have highighted in red the clickable areas that should be removed. Whenever a visitor has too many options to click, the conversion rate goes down.

shift-landing-page

What they Do Right

As far as design goes, theirs is an OK landing page. I have definitely seen much worse. The use of images and color is very good.

What They Could Improve

The landing page has few areas to improve:

  • Headline / eBook Title
  • eBook cover image
  • Sign up form
  • Social sharing

Headline: The headline It’s a bird….it’s your plan….it’s YOUR CUSTOMER doesn’t create any curiosity, nor does it tell me specifically why I should download the eBook. (What’s in it for me?)

According to the sales copy, the eBook looks to be about how the consumer has drastically changed over the last 10 years. Some possible titles that would create more curiosity might include:

  • 5 Ways Customers Have Radically Changed and Why Your Marketing Isn’t Working
  • Understand Today’s Connected (and Empowered) Customer and How You Can Better Capture Their Interest
  • The Modern Sales Playbook: How to Use Technology to Drive New Customer Revenue
  • Power Shift: How to Keep Up with Today’s Evolved Consumer

Cover Image: In addition to improving the title of the eBook, conversions would also increase with an improved cover design. HubSpot has a helpful eBook on this topic.

Sign up form: The web form only asks for an email address and the button doesn’t draw much attention. Improving the button design will increase conversions. Asking for more information will increase the quality of leads. Here at Groove, when we started to ask for more information on our landing pages, conversions did decrease slightly, but the quality of our leads improved.

Social sharing: By not having any social sharing buttons on the page, they are missing out on additional traffic and conversions.

With a properly optimized landing page, conversions should be in the 30-50% range.

Premium Content Offers

Premium content is most typically a downloadable eBook that is offered on a landing page (like the one above).

As I mentioned previously, Shift has only one eBook that I could find. Plus, they have failed to use graphical calls to action at the bottom of each blog post to bring attention to their premium content offers (eBooks). As a result, I’d guess that their site-wide conversion rate is well under 1%.

When it comes to premium content, the more offers you have, the more leads you will capture. Helping our clients to figure out what types of premium content to create is just one of the things we cover in an Inbound Marketing Game Plan.

List Building

There is no more powerful way to increase the flow of qualified leads than to build an email list. The easiest way to build an email list is to offer premium content for download via landing pages.

When a visitor downloads a free report from your site, they convert into a subscriber, and when that happens, all sorts of amazing things start to happen.

With a list of subscribers, you can:

  • Drive traffic to your blog on demand
  • Invite prospects to a webinar
  • Send prospects to a new landing page offering premium content
  • Segment and nurture your prospects based on whatever criteria you like using lead scoring
  • And so much more…

By offering downloads, Shift is building an email list; however, without access to their systems, I can’t comment on their marketing automation solution’s ability to nurture those leads.

If your company doesn’t have a marketing automation solution in place, it’s very likely that leads are not being nurtured down through the funnel.

A top of funnel lead is a very different lead than a bottom of funnel lead.

marketing_funnel_example_620px

The goal of using a marketing automation system is to automate a lead nurturing process that will convert as many top of funnel leads into bottom of funnel leads as possible. Without having this in place, conversion of leads to customers is likely much lower than it otherwise could be.

Social Media

When it comes to driving traffic by promoting your content, social media can be a very powerful tool. For B2B companies like Shift, Twitter and LinkedIn are the way to go.

Twitter

The greater a company’s Twitter reach, the more traffic they will get.

Source: Hubspot’s 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

Source: Hubspot’s 2013 Marketing Benchmarks Survey (click this image to get the survey)

As you can see below, Shift’s has just 75 followers. With so few followers, Twitter really isn’t going to do them much good and this is a missed opportunity for more traffic and leads.

shift-twitter

 

One of their competitors, Appirio has done a better job of building a following of just over 11,000, so building a larger Twitter following in their industry is definitely do-able.

Appirio-Twitter

To improve their results from Twitter, some of the activities that Shift should pursue include:

  • Focus on sharing their own (and other’s) content
  • Promote their Twitter profile to increase their following
  • Engage in some influencer marketing to build relationships with people who already have a large following

LinkedIn

Shift’s LinkedIn company page (shown below) is just fine. Although if they worked on increasing their following, they would get more exposure for their content.

shift-linkedin

 

Probably more important than improving their company page would be to improve the LinkedIn profiles for their staff. In looking at Jonathon Millman’s (Director of Marketing) profile, there are a few tweaks that could be made.

Syndicate Blog Content: Shift should take advantage of the new publishing capabilities of LinkedIn and syndicate their blog posts to each executive’s user profile. (See my profile as an example.)

Promote Premium Content: This is the byproduct of syndicating blog content; however, as I have done on my profile, Jonathon and his colleagues could also be promoting their premium content offers on the publications section of their respective profiles. This would create opportunities for lead capture every time someone viewed their profile.

Summary

If you have read everything in this audit example, I am truly impressed. If you have skipped straight down to this section, that’s ok, too. Either way, this section contains a summary of my most important observations for Shift and tips for you as you audit your own site.

Make Your Home Page Count

  1. Ensure you have a modern looking home page that answers three key questions: What does your company do? What problems do you solve? Why do I need your help?

Traffic Generation

  1. The key to steadily increasing traffic is to steadily publish content. Blogging is ideal for this.
  2. If you are going to start blogging, make sure you have clearly identified your target audience and what they are interested in reading. Do NOT just write about your company’s products and services on your blog. People won’t care.
  3. SEO is simply a byproduct of blogging done correctly.

Lead Generation

  1. Put a call to action at the bottom of every blog post. Make that call to action link to a landing page.
  2. Create optimized landing pages where visitors can download your premium content.
  3. Create premium content that is going to capture the interest of your target audience. More premium content = more leads.
  4. Use your premium content to build a list of subscribers and do everything you can to engage that list. These are your best prospects. Treat them right, and they will reward you.

Social Media

  1. For B2B companies, focus on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  2. Ensure all your profiles are completed and optimized.
  3. Use social media to promote your blog posts and drive additional targeted traffic.

Final Thoughts

Inbound marketing, when done correctly, can have a dramatic impact on website traffic and lead generation. I hope this audit has given you insight into how to succeed with inbound marketing. Building a successful company is a huge challenge for anyone, and I have the utmost respect for the entrepreneurs behind Shift for building a successful organization. My hope is that they will be able to use this information to become even more successful.

This audit has proven three things:

  1. No company is perfect. Even the best companies have to constantly monitor their online marketing. This should be encouragement for us all.
  2. Inbound marketing requires a very specific set of skills. You can be a brilliant entrepreneur, but if you haven’t studied what it takes to succeed with inbound marketing, you will need to find help.
  3. You can build a successful company without being good at inbound marketing. Inbound marketing just makes it easier to succeed.

I will be doing a limited number of inbound marketing audits each month. If you would like to request one for your firm, fill out the form here.

If you are with Shift and wish to call me to talk about this audit, I can be reached at 208-391-2057.

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