Inbound and outbound: an integrated marketing plan

Outbound and inbound marketing work togetherThere are many small businesses that aren’t completely ready to let go of some of the traditional marketing techniques they’re used to. We’re okay with that. We understand that a nice mix of outbound and inbound can make for a successful marketing plan. The only thing we ask in return is a compromise on your part.

No, inbound marketing is not all you need, but it’s a lot of what you need. That’s because the majority of people today go online to research a company, get a product review, and learn more about a business. If you haven’t flooded this space with your presence, you need to start now.

That’s not to say you can’t also have a nice company brochure and some print collateral (traditional) or attend a couple of trade shows (also traditional). In fact, if you do attend a trade show or two, you’ll need something to hand out. The trick is getting your collateral in the hands of interested buyers and making sure your web and social media presence are printed on these pieces. You can use print to drive people online, to sign up for your newsletter, follow along on Twitter and Facebook, or read even more about a particular topic.

These are just some of the ways outbound and inbound can be integrated and work together. Just remember that once your prospects are on your website and following you on social media, they need something new to look at and read on a regular basis. That means regular blog posts, Facebook shares, and Twitter conversations. It also means monitoring those spaces for feedback, questions, or comments from fans.

Sounds overwhelming? You can always turn to a content marketing agency like us to help you through it.

Meetings: the good, the bad, the ugly

Meetings: the good, the bad, the uglyAlthough some meetings are necessary, I’m just not a big fan. They interrupt what you’re doing, and in some cases, it’s hard to get motivated to start a project because you know you’ll soon be stopping it to attend a meeting.

I’m the type of person who likes to get things done. I like seeing results and crossing items off my to-do list each day. What I’m not a huge fan of is discussing how those things are going to get done in an hour-long meeting. Office discussions, touching base, going over projects—all great. Formalizing a meeting for these things results in off-topic conversations and wasted time. For the everyday work life, most meetings are just not needed.

Those are feelings I share with 37signals creator Jason Fried. He talks about this topic regularly and has written about it—among other things—in his book, Rework. It’s a refreshing, modern take on things. Take a look at this interview he did back in 2009. Very cutting edge.

In another of his famous talks, Fried discusses why creative types need hours of uninterrupted time to get work done. It’s brilliant.

Yes, some meetings are needed to close a deal, grow a business, or communicate with customers. But others—the ones where your creativity is halted, time is wasted, and productivity suffers—just are not.

Statistics from the 2011 Social Media Marketing Report

Download the social media marketing reportLast week Michael Stelzner, with Social Media Examiner, released the 2011 social media marketing industry report. In it he shares information about how companies are using social media for their business, what tools they plan on using more than others in 2011, and how they have benefited from social media.

He and his team surveyed 3,300 businesses to get the results for this report. I wanted to point out some of the statistics I found to be insightful, but I encourage you to download the full detailed report. The information it provides could answer some of your own social media questions and help you plan out a social media marketing campaign for 2011.

What’s the time commitment for social media?

  • 58% of marketers surveyed are using social media for six hours or more each week
  • 34% are using it for 11 or more hours weekly
  • 47% of marketers who have more than three years experience in social media spend at least 16 hours per week using it

Age matters

  • The younger the marketer, the more time he or she spends using social media
  • People aged 20 to 29 years old spend more time than other age groups using social media—with 41% spending 11 or more hours weekly

The top five benefits of social media

  • Generated exposure for the business (88%)
  • Increased traffic to website and/or subscribers (72%)
  • Improved SEO ranking (62%)
  • Resulted in new business partnerships (56%)
  • Generated qualified leads (51%)


We’re Still a WordPress Website Provider

WordPress website developerSimplified Solutions has been in the business of building WordPress sites for quite some time now. Since The Content Squad came to be, that hasn’t been as big of a priority for us because our business model changed directions a bit. Even though we haven’t promoted this service in a while, we still want people to know of Simplified Solutions as a WordPress website provider.

The way we go about delivering and launching websites is a bit different now, too—but in a good way! We’re able to more efficiently launch sites and hand you the reins because our designer has devoted 100 percent of his time to this service. This service, by the way, includes a customized WordPress theme, social media set-up, and email marketing set up and integration.

Once your website is launched, we’ll help you get going and understand some basic details before we completely hand over the keys. It’s not for the serious inbound marketer, but it helps small businesses establish an online presence and effectively marketing their company.

We’d love to start a conversation and give you more details. In the meantime, check out our new portfolio page.

Where do people go to find you?

How do people find your businessWhere do you think people go to find your business?

I promise you it’s not the Yellow Pages. In the last three years, I can’t even begin to recall the number of business owners who told me they were giving up their Yellow Page ad. If I had a dime for each, I’m sure I’d have coffee for a year.

So where, then?
One thing that drives business for a lot of people is referrals. People ask their friends and family for advice when purchasing a service or product all the time. This can happen anywhere: in person at a coffee shop, a meeting, an event, or on the phone. Because we’re all crunched for time, it’s happening more and more online through email or on social media. These two platforms are huge in terms of opportunities where referrals flow.

If you’re not being referred or talked about in social media, then you are definitely being Googled. People are finding you by searching Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or some other search engine. That’s why having a presence on the web and being easily found online is crucial for survival today. This applies to all businesses, large and small.

This is the type of stuff we help small businesses accomplish everyday. Contact us if you’d like learn more.

An Email Marketing Checklist

Email marketing checklistTwo weeks ago we sent out our first newsletter in about a year. We won’t get into the reasons why it took so long to get back into the game, but we will say that we’re happy to be back!

We were expecting unsubscribes and non-engaged readers. We had some, but for the most part, we’re happy with the results from our last two newsletters. Now for the challenge going forward: improve our open and click rates, provide information each week that readers are eager to receive, and gain new subscribers in the process.

How does one go about doing this? As I was brushing up on my email marketing skills, I came across this article from Small Business Computing. Although there are thousands of email help articles on the web, this one speaks to our—and hopefully your—small business. The full article goes into detail, but on the surface they suggest:

  1. Integrate email marketing with social media
  2. Make email campaigns viewable on mobile phones
  3. Engage readers by having conversations and inviting them to participate in the discussion
  4. Keep content brief and focused
  5. Don’t overdo on images or design
  6. Track campaigns to determine what’s working and what’s not

Email is essential. We’re committed to making our newsletter something people look forward to getting each week and we’d love for you to subscribe. If your small business needs help starting an email marketing campaign or implementing some of the tips listed above, we can help you build a list from the ground up and start seeing the results from this powerful tool.

How Do You Find the Top Talent? Sometimes It Finds You

Diamonds in the roughWell let me start by saying that I’m not qualified to talk about this subject.

That’s all. (I can never resist a chance to slip in that line from Devil Wears Prada.)

Being qualified never stopped me before so here goes.

I think the reasons we’ve been able to attract some amazing talent here at Simplfiied Solutions LLC are numerous, but I’ve listed a few below.

1) I like to connect with people online. Hopefully people would say I’m a giver both online and off. I like to retweet, promote others, help others make connections, and refer as much business as I can. This led to a resurfaced relationship with an old friend on Twitter. Wayne Cox and I connected via Twitter after knowing each other in a different business years ago. Wayne is instrumental in our WordPress customizations, email marketing efforts, and our video editing. He is truly a jack of many trades. A pastor of a thriving church plant in Elizabethtown, and a coffee business owner to boot. I think Wayne and I have contests as to who can promote the other more. It’s like Dwight and Andy trading favors on the Office.

2) I am constantly looking for talent and gravitate toward it. The first time I was referred to Josh Starr with Solid Giant Web Design—by my buddy and Louisville HVAC contractor, Rob Benefiel—I said that guy rocks. Josh and I struck up a relationship and partnered on at least five projects last year. When both our lives and businesses settle down, I’m hopeful we’ll do some more work together. I could say the same thing about Louisville photographer Robert Burge. Bobby knows his trade so well. He has done work for large commercial customers like Jewish Hospital, Churchill Downs, and even UK Athletics. He also does wedding photography, shoots for top realtors, and helps us out with pictures for our website content. When Bobby is on the scene he naturally makes people laugh, relax, get serious, or whatever the situation calls for. He directs traffic and keeps everyone on task. He and I are kindred spirits, and we do a decent amount of work together. It’s growing as we speak.

3) I’m not the most humble person, but humility is always on my radar. I like to make fun of myself, and I don’t take “me” too serious. Heck, I refer to myself as a hack. I also hope that I listen and learn from those wiser and more experienced than me. The best example I can think of is how I came to know Jessie Devine, our star copywriter and inbound marketing specialist. Jessie came on board about six weeks ago as our first employee (team member). Jessie and I connected via Twitter and LinkedIn. She had the courage and boldness to point out that I was advertising that we offered “copyrighting services” on our main website. This is an instance where you could actually say, “Bryce, you can’t even spell copywriting.” Yes, folks, I was using the wrong version of the word on my website. Jessie offered up some constructive criticism along with a few compliments. I could have gotten mad, but instead I thanked her for caring enough to tell me. That day I remember thinking, I’d like to hire that gal. Well, we were able to. She is my sounding board on a daily basis. She’s extremely talented at her trade, and she is a straight shooter. What a great addition. I’m careful about the culture we’re building, and I’ve got a great benchmark to build upon.

4) I lean on experts. Proverbs 15:22 says plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Sure I have a CPA. Yes, my customers are good mentors many times. However, I’m talking about a very close business adviser that I won’t mention yet. He keeps me grounded and guides me along. I cherish our phone conversations, coffee talks, lunches, and Gtalk chats. It’s a major component of what I was missing the first few years. One of my other mentors that I’ve never met is Peter J Daniels. He says good morals is good economics. So God will always have a place in our business. It’s all his anyway. He’s just letting me drive the ship.

So how are you finding the top talent?

Skip the craigslist ads and value humans. Develop relationships. Give. Be humble, or at least try.

Tying it all together with email

Email is part of the overall strategy Hubspot tweeted a pretty interesting blog post the other day about using email to drive organic traffic to websites. There’s several reasons why I dig this concept:

1. It’s a way to tie all of your media together
No matter how many followers you have on Twitter or fans you have on Facebook, your most engaged audience are those who subscribe to your newsletter. You should be blogging at least once a week, sharing information through social media daily, and responding to comments as they come. A monthly newsletter helps tie all of those efforts together by linking to your blog, sharing information about your social media accounts, and producing exclusive content for your newsletter subscribers.

2. As an inbound marketing agency, it’s another way we’re helping our customers see results
We’ve just started newsletter campaigns for our clients. The more we promote their upcoming newsletter, the more subscribers they get. The more we promote their blogs in the newsletter, the more page views they’re seeing. This is exciting stuff and it helps them view email as part of their overall inbound marketing strategy.

3. As we revamp our own newsletter, it’s one of the things we’ve already planned on doing
It’s been a long time since Simplified Solutions sent out a newsletter—too long. Yes we’ve been busy but that’s not really an excuse since most small businesses are busy. We’re actually going to send our first re-designed monthly newsletter this Saturday. We can’t wait to start sending out content again and tracking our results. If you’re interested, you can subscribe here. We’d love to have you on board!

So tell us, is email part of your overall inbound marketing strategy? If it isn’t but you’d like it to be, we’d love to help.

Speaking—need a guest speaker at your next event?

Need a speaker for your next event?I was always a shy kid growing up. The kind of kid who hung on his mom’s leg. My mom’s friends still remind me of this 30 years later. Even though I was shy, I wasn’t completely backward. I did play a lot of sports and played most of them pretty well. But still, I never liked the spotlight.

When I was 18, something happened that changed some of that. I went on a high school retreat and at the end—when given an opportunity to address the crowd—I walked up and starting speaking. Wow. Where did that come from? With enough courage, anyone could probably do that once, but the encouragement I received that day kept me moving forward.

As my confidence grew, the next thing you know I was comfortable giving group presentations in college and even started a career in sales. After a move from one financial services company to another, I found myself speaking to employee orientations, enrollment meetings, and other training events on a weekly basis. I loved it. I followed the work of great motivational speakers like Mark Victor Hanson, Peter J Daniels (he’s a businessman who happens to speak) and Doug Wead. I thought this is something I would love to do.

When I started my business over three years ago, I left a lot of the speaking opportunities behind. Then last year, opportunities started to pop up again. First I did a workshop for a customer, Lowe Chiropractic, on digital productivity. Then I did a series of workshops for Oldham County Chamber of Commerce focused on social media and inbound marketing. This year I just finished speaking at the Staging Experts of Louisville’s monthly meeting at Cort Furniture. I have some more workshops lined up for Oldham County this spring, and we’re open to more engagements.

If you’re interested in having me speak to your group on inbound marketing, social media, digital productivity, or related topics— then contact us and tell us what you’re thinking. If the group is large enough, I’m still at the free level. Of course stipends or gift cards have been nice parting gifts :) Referrals from others. Whatever the case, let’s connect if your group wants to get a jump start on digital (inbound) marketing.

We’ve been cooking up some good things here at Simplified Solutions LLC

Simplified Solutions LLC Cooking up Some Good Stuff

So, I haven’t posted to the blog since we moved into an office in the fall. We’ve been busy though. I have evidence. I’ll share it in this post.

First we moved into the office.

Then we became a Certified Hubspot Partner. Learned a system. Launched a site. Passed a test.

Then we launched a new D.B.A called The Content Squad to use said Hubspot software.

Then we increased our inbound marketing retainers in price and scope.

Then we secured some funding and an amazing business adviser to boot.

Then we hired our first team member. You can read about her here.

Then we began building out the third leg of our business model. It’s a training, coaching, and membership site. You’ll have to wait to hear more about it. It’s a secret. In case you were wondering, the Simplified Solutions leg does WordPress websites, coaching, speaking engagements, and project work. The Content Squad leg does inbound marketing on retainer and uses/sells the Hubspot CMS. It rocks.

I also started a sales development and training program with these sales pros.

So no more excuses. Here we come. Humbly but aggressively.

We’re here to serve and to build a team. We’ll continue to have fun along the way.

P.S. We appreciate your attention and your business.