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Inbound Marketing: A Crash Course

If you’re like most, commercial breaks are usually spent browsing your phone or grabbing a quick snack before your favorite show comes back on. Banner ads and popups are quickly ignored, and you probably change the station quickly when you hear an annoying radio ad.

Purchase Funnel

  • Awareness: customer is aware of product or service

  • Interest: customer is going out of their way to seek the product

  • Desire: customer wants or aspires to brand/ product

  • Action: customer is planning to purchase product/ service

People have grown tired of traditional in-your-face marketing tactics. We can tell when a company is trying to get us to buy something. Seriously, who looks that excited about going to Walmart on Black Friday? In an effort to connect to consumers and gain trust, more and more businesses are utilizing inbound marketing. 

 

What is it?

Inbound marketing is the promotion of a business through blogs, newsletters, podcasts, social media, videos, and SEO. Inbound marketing is all about being found naturally. You want potential customers to come to you, rather than having to hunt for them yourself. Customers spread awareness about the brand by reblogging content, sharing posts, and discovering the company naturally during regular search inquiries.

 

Generating Leads

The main key to successful inbound marketing, is creating content tailored specifically to your target customer.  You then want to make sure to post content on the appropriate channel so that your potential lead can find it and become a customer. For example, if your target client is a parent looking for healthy recipes or school supplies, you wouldn’t want to post them on Tumblr, because those tips would probably never be found.


93% of buying cycles start with an online search and 66% of marketers are focusing on improving SEO and growing their organic presence.  


It’s crucial to do your research and to think like your customer. Where do they go for information? What social media platforms do they use? What key words would they use to search online? When and how often do they make a purchase? Understand your demographics and do your homework so that future leads can find your business organically and eventually become long term customers.

 

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is quickly becoming outdated and costly. In fact, inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead and 79% of businesses with a blog report that they’ve experienced higher returns when using this marketing tactic.

 

4 Step Inbound Marketing Strategy

Inbound marketing may sound complicated and difficult to implement, but it can be fairly simple. We’ve broken down the 4 steps to help you get started.

#1. Attract: The best way to attract customers is through blogs, tailored SEO tactics, well-designed websites, and social media. 

Remarketing-Keep your visitors engaged by reminding them about a specific product they showed interest in. 

#2 Convert: After you gain exposure and traffic, the next step is to convert those visitors into customers. Make sure to provide many opportunities for potential customers to connect by providing their email address and contact information. Incentives help, as people are more likely to give out their information in exchange for a free download or a discount code.

#3 Close: Customer Relationship Management or CRM helps keep track of all of the contact information you collect, and allows you to tailor email and newsletters specifically to each customer. Complex and in depth software typically costs hundreds to thousands of dollars, but HubSpot offers a simple version for free. 

#4 Engage/Retain: Keep your customers wanting more by providing a great experience after they’ve made a purchase. Keep track of what products or features your customers respond best to, send out surveys, and continue to send personalized emails.

 

Now that you have a basic understanding about inbound marketing, start working on your own strategy. Why spend time and unnecessary money hunting for possible leads, when you can help them come to you?  

Need tailored assistance with your inbound marketing campaign? Let’s team up! Reach out to Hue & Tone today: 336-365-8559 or hannah@hueandtonecreative.com.

5 Easy to Accomplish Do's + Don'ts of SEO

One of the most common questions we hear is “How do I make my website come up first on Google?”

SEO Do's + Don'ts -- Hue & Tone Creative

That’s a great question -- one with a complicated answer. The short answer is SEO, but the long answer requires diving into what SEO is. It’s important to understand that there are a number of ways to improve your SEO, some of which require a developer or paying for ranking -- but the ideas we’ve compiled here are meant to be easy to execute, no matter what your skill level.

First things first, what does SEO even stand for? SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It can refer to anything that helps increase the authority and relevancy of your site.

Let’s let Cristers Media explain more about how that process works:

“The way Google and other search engines display websites is this: Google has automated computer systems working around the clock that randomly visit websites all over the Internet, take snapshots of each page, and file them away in a massive database.

As part of taking a snapshot of each web page, Google's system reads every word and other content on a web page in order to determine the specific subject of the page. Google uses this collected data to determine which web pages to show, and in what order, for a particular keyword search.

In other words, Google's computer algorithms dynamically determine which web page on the Internet is the most relevant for a specific keyword or key phrase and displays it first. It then displays the second most relevant page, and so on. The resulting list of web pages is known as a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).”

So now that you know what SEO is, how do you improve it? And what should you avoid doing?

DO:

  1. Do keep your content fresh with high quality content. The more frequently you update the content on your site, the happier your customers (and Google) will be with you. Providing customers + clients with original content on a regular basis ups the frequency with which a search engine will crawl and recatalog the pages on your site. The more frequently your pages are cataloged, the more opportunities you have to rise in the search rankings. To provide a frame of reference, a site that is updated daily, or at least 2-3 times a week, is considered a frequently updated site.  
     
  2. Do include keywords where it counts. Keywords are words or phrases in your content that people will search for in order to find your site -- it’s how the search engine matches up a query with your specific website. You’ll want to do research on which words to use, because you have to think like your customers in order to narrow down the proper search terms. Keep in mind that people will often perform a search using general or plain language terms instead of technical jargon.
     
  3. Do get social. Social media serves as a way to push your content out -- this puts it in front of more eyes, increasing the chance of getting an external link to your site. An external link is simply any other website (hopefully one with high authority) that points to your site. External links demonstrate and increase the credibility of your site.

    Secondarily, if your content is widely shared on social media it can contribute to a website's authority just like external links can (more on that in a minute). It’s another way that Google validates your content, leading to a small bump in domain authority.
     
  4. Do utilize Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmasters is a free toolset by Google, for, well...webmasters. They help you do things like track your website’s search presence, see subscriber stats, and measure your overall website performance. Specifically, Search Console will help you make sure Google can access your content, hide content you don’t want show in the results, and monitor any malware issues.
     
  5. Do include outbound links. Practically the opposite of an external link, outbound links refer from your site to someone else's. When you link out to other domains, it helps the search engine to understand your “niche” and it helps increase the perceived quality of your site.

DONT:

SEO Do's + Don'ts -- Hue & Tone Creative
  1. Don’t have a slow load speed. A faster page speed (the time it takes for each individual page to load) is show to lead to a higher rank and conversion rate. Google’s also indicated that site speed (the speed of a sampling of all the pages together) is an influencing factor on page rank. Plus, no one likes waiting around for a website to load, so your customers will be happy too.
     
  2. Don’t use paid links. Google is firmly against manipulation of their site results -- specifically people sneakily buying their way to the top. Things like display ads are fine, because they’re a regular tool of marketing, but just regular linked text can come across the wrong way to Google. If you want a search engine to ignore something that really is a paid link, you should use a “nofollow” tag -- but, we promised this wasn’t an article for developers, so if you need to learn more about that check this out.
     
  3. Don’t keyword stuff. When you’re blatantly cramming tons of keywords in the content of your article, or in the meta tags of your site it’s called keyword stuffing. It’s obvious you’re trying to up your rankings (in a way that isn’t valuable to the reader) and it can lead to your site being penalized -- or even banned.
     
  4. Don’t duplicate content. Content that appears on the Internet more than once is called duplicate content. When there are multiple pieces of identical content on the Internet, it’s hard for search engines to decide which is more relevant. It’s important to note that there is no penalty for duplicate content, but rather rewards for original content (source).
     
  5. Don’t have broken links. In addition to harming the user experience of your website, broken links can stop a webcrawler from seeing the rest of your site. Web crawlers function by moving from the root of your site (main page) down to the different pages, subpages, and blog entries. When they hit a broken link they can’t crawl any further -- and might end up missing other pages on your site.

As you can see from all these do’s and dont’s, SEO can be pretty complicated. But the impact of doing things right can mean transforming your site from a deserted corner of the innerwebs to one of the most popular Internet hangouts around.

Looking to read more on SEO? We’ve got even more in-depth reading for you here and here.

Let's Talk Email Marketing: Content and Design Time

If you read our post last week, you know all about what email marketing is and why you should be using it to promote yourself. This week, we’re talking how to setup a great campaign. Following best practices ups the odds that your emails will be opened and that people will engage with them. From visuals to the subject line, no detail is too small.


Subject Lines

The subject line is the first thing people see after you send your campaign -- and with only seconds to capture someone’s attention, a single word can make or break your open rate.

The basic idea is that you want your subject line to be concise, accurate and informative. It should set an accurate expectation for the content of the email - without getting too cutesy.  For example, subject lines like “Website news - Issue 3” and “[COMPANYNAME] May 2005 News Bulletin!” are shown to do better than things like “Last Minute Gift - We Have The Answer” and “You Asked For More…” (source). Readers want to know what they’re about  to read, and they aren’t likely to read what they perceive as junk mail.

Need more? Here’s a couple of can’t-fail subject line tips:

  • Localization + Personalization. Personalizing your subject line with a reader's first and/or last name, or even the city name, often results in higher open rates.
  • Use different subject lines. Keep it fresh! Even if you only send out a regular feature (like a monthly industry update) be sure to change up your wording every time you send out an email. Highlight the lead story or a feature piece of content to keep things timely... and readers interested.
  • Don’t cry wolf. Only mark truly important emails as urgent -- no one likes to be faked out. Subject lines with the words ‘urgent,’ ‘breaking,’ ‘important,’ and alert show higher open rates -- but only when used appropriately and sparingly (source).
  • Keep the subject line short. Like we mentioned before, keep it short. Most readers scan through their emails so keeping the line 50 characters or fewer is best.


Choosing Templates

Creating a template that attracts your readers is one of the most effective ways to get your readers engaged. You’ll want to create a template, or set of templates, that you can use across all of your email campaigns. Creating a consistent look that matches the feel of your brand and blends with the rest of your internet presence is key.

Design inspiration  h  ere  and  here .

Design inspiration here and here.

Almost every platform allows you to start with a pre-made template or design your own from scratch. Depending on your design IQ, we recommend starting with a pre-made template and customizing from there.

Be sure to insert your logo, tweak all the elements to match your brand colors, and pick fonts that fit the feel of your brand. Then, save this template so you can use it time and time again. Not only is this less work for you, but it creates consistency for your customers!

We recommend:

  • Sticking to one or two colors to create a clean design and keep readers focused on the content of the email.
  • Using different colors to differentiate the headers and footers of your email.
  • Using borders to provide visual cues to readers where one article starts and another begins.
  • Keeping alignment constant. If you’re utilizing large amounts of text, be sure to left align so that it’s easy for people to read.  
  • Lots of white space makes for a modern look -- don’t stuff content so close together that you overwhelm readers.


Layout

No one wants to receive a wall of text in their email. Email marketing should be fun and eye-catching... but also informative. Balancing text and images is the best way to create a visually interesting email and encourage people to read through everything. 

  • Organize your content by importance. Important + timely content should always be front-and-center at the top of your email to catch the eye of people who are skimming.
  • Use different font sizes and weights to create interest and organization. You want to utilize headlines, body text, quotes and buttons to create interest and give visual cues to the reader.
  • If your message is long (and can’t be simplified any more) send those who care to your site to learn more.
  • Shake up the size/layout of your images. Test out different sizes and orientations within your email to create interest.


Other Tips

Design isn’t everything -- now that you have a visually appealing email, let’s get down to a few nitty gritty details to consider when you’re done designing your campaign.

  • Make sure to test. Now that your email is looking great and ready to go you need to test it out. Send a test in your email marketing system, or consider using a tool like Inbox Preview. Inbox Preview allows you to see what your email will look like to different people on different platforms, and it’s one of the best way to ensure the look of your email stays consistent.
  • Don’t harass people. The frequency you will want to email people varies by business -- but consider 2-3 emails a month to be a good jumping off point. After 6 months of consistently emailing people 2-3 times a month, you can analyze people’s reactions and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Never SPAM people. If there’s one cardinal rule of email marketing, it’s to never email people who haven’t given you explicit permission. Most likely they’ll immediately unsubscribe, and even if they don’t, chances are they won’t be likely to engage.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of social media. Integrate social media into your campaign, and be sure to push the sign-up option on both your website and social channels.
  • Don’t waste time sending the wrong email. Once you’re feeling really advanced, you can test things out using A/B testing. It’s perfect when you’re not sure which image or headline to use.

Feel like you’re far from being a pro? No need to worry -- after sending a few campaigns, it’ll be as easy as riding a bike. But, if you don’t find that to be the case, we’re always here to help!

Soooo.... Ready, set, create!

Let's Talk Email Marketing: Platforms

Let’s talk email marketing.

Tip: Make sure to pick an email marketing platform that is mobile compatible. An estimated 50-60% of emails are now open on a mobile device.

Tip: Make sure to pick an email marketing platform that is mobile compatible. An estimated 50-60% of emails are now open on a mobile device.

First off, what is it? When we reference email marketing we’re referring to bulk email sending (typically sent using email marketing software). These emails usually include ads, request business, or solicit sales/donations. In addition to increasing sales, they also help to build trust and brand awareness.

Email marketing is both efficient and cost effective, so no matter what size your company is, it’s a great way to stay in touch with clients and follow-up on potential client leads.

There are a ton of email marketing platforms to choose from -- so, in all honestly, selecting a platform is often about personal preference. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a few of the major players:

  • IContact is an email campaign service that helps small businesses to larger senders. Their personal coaching, and award winning technical support sets it apart from other tools.
  • Constant Contact (the most used platform in terms of customers) makes editing simple as 1, 2, 3. With the ability to drag and drop content into customized templates, you can create customize each template best for your consumers.
  • Campaign Monitor Campaign Monitor is geared towards larger companies. It integrates with a ton of apps, and allows you to easily manage multiple accounts.

Other popular platforms include AWeber, SendinBlue, Benchmark, GetResponse and Vertical Response. But our personal favorite? MailChimp! MailChimp is a great choice for small business. It’s low cost and seamlessly integrates with popular web platforms like Squarespace and Wordpress. More than 12 million people and businesses are using MailChimp, and they send out over a billion emails a day!

There’s a few key features MailChimp has (though a lot of the other platforms do as well) that you should consider when shopping around:

  1. Automation. Sending an onboarding series of emails? Need to introduce new subscribers to your business or organization? This feature is great for creating and sending out automated messages, without the headache! A certain behavior, like signing up, will trigger an email or series of emails to be sent -- without you having to do anything.

  2. A/B Testing. This feature tests two different emails against each other to see which content performs best. Which subject line lead to higher open rates? Which image worked best? Both of these questions (and more) can be answered by this feature.

  3. E-Commerce features. You can easily connect your online store to MailChimp, where you can set up product recommendations, track online orders, and analyze purchase data. These are powerful features especially for small retail shops or individual makers.

  4. Advanced Analytics. This is the easiest way to track your performance! Monitor sales, subscribers, and revenue. Most importantly, you can integrate Google Analytics to learn even more about your campaigns.

  5. Segmentation. Nothing can turn people off faster than receiving content they don’t care about. By using segmentation, you can break your email lists into different groups. For example, “potential customers” and “existing customers.”

Feel ready to pick a platform? Good! Because next week we’ll be back with more information on how to design your first (or a much better) campaign. We’ll go over things like how to design an eye-catching template, what kind of content to include, and how to write a solid subject line.

Not sure what platform will work best for you? Let us help you decide. Shoot an email to hannah@hueandtonecreative.com with your top options and we'll help you decide what's best!

Finding inspiration in Greensboro

We love Greensboro -- we often find ourselves stopping mid-step to snap a picture downtown or telling our friends about an upcoming event... and it’s all because Greensboro is a genuinely interesting place. With all of the history, parks, libraries, and murals in Greensboro it’s hard not to find something that will spark your creativity. We’ve picked out four places in the ’Boro that should be your first stop if you’re in need of a creative jolt. From murals and greenery to downtown shops, we’ve got it covered!

Elsewhere: A living museum set in a former thrift store, Elsewhere was just highlighted for having one of the world’s most unusual artist residencies. According to their website, “When you go Elsewhere, you enter the middle of an ongoing experiment of people, places, and things. We are constantly building, playing, trying, changing, inventing, and exploring new environments. Our artists, scholars, and creatives in-residence are excavating the past to design new futures. When you come to Elsewhere, you become part of this evolution.” This is a great place to go if you’re having a creative block. The giant array of artwork, artists, and creative energy is sure to spark a new idea.

Spring Garden Mural: These bright colors and unique patterns give Spring Garden a pop of color! But what really inspires us is the idea behind the mural -- members of the Greensboro Mural Project chatted with pedestrians in front of the wall to learn what issues mattered most to them. The Greensboro Mural Project is an arts organization that engages the people of GSO in the creative process of making a mural in their community. Their mission is to “make Greensboro a more colorful city.” Their work is scattered across Greensboro -- check out one of their pieces on Lindsay St., Friendly Ave, at the Interactive Resource Center, or Backpack Beginnings. Perfect if you need a little color in your life!

The Center City Park: A lot of times taking a break from your home or office can cause inspiration to strike! This park in downtown Greensboro is one the best places to go for fresh air. It’s lively, calming, and thanks to Action Greensboro something is almost always going on. With all of the events, food trucks, music, arts, and people around downtown is a great place to refresh.

The Forge:  A ‘makerspace’ (think coworking for craftsmen + craftswomen) located in Downtown Greensboro, The Forge just recently relocated to a new building more than twice the size of its old space. They strive to provide the community with inexpensive access to a workshop area and a collaborative space, with separate areas for advanced software development, digital design, textiles, woodworking, and more. Perfect for tinkers and innovators alike, this space provides access to advanced equipment and high-end technology that would be hard for an individual to afford. Tours are available, so stop in and get inspired by the innovation!

Inspiration can come from anywhere… especially in Greensboro! Where did we miss? What is your favorite place to find foodie, design or innovation inspiration in Greensboro? Let us know in the comments!

Freebie: Modern + Bright Quote Templates

After almost a month offline, we're back -- and our site is better than ever. We've added a few fresh graphics, updated our portfolio, and created a more informative homepage. 

Best of all, we have a bright new set of quote templates to share with you. Optimized for social media, this set of three templates features pop art inspired colors. The high contrast between the colorful accents and dark grey background makes for a can't miss graphic that will stand out on any social media feed.

While we're always a fan of clean and simple, we have a soft spot for this playful diamond pattern (perfect for fashion bloggers)!

Download the Adobe Illustrator file here to start customizing! 

Have a request for a freebie? Tell us in the comments section! 

Branding (Part 1): 5 Questions to Help You Name Your Business

Branding1Graphic-01.jpg

Of all the elements of branding your business, selecting a name may be one of the strangest, most challenging parts.

In my first round of owning a creative business, I was just “Hannah Pomphrey Graphic Design.” It became pretty clear to me by the second time around that I wanted a distinct name for my business…but I wasn’t sure yet what that name was going to be.

As you know, I eventually settled on Hue & Tone Creative – which I LOVE – but it took a while to get there. If you’re lucky, your first idea will be a totally original one, and no existing businesses will have a similar name. That’s not quite how it happened over here, though.

If you’re starting the process of narrowing down a name, here are a couple of questions to ask yourself to help streamline the process.

 

1: Should I use my name?

Whether or not you want to use your own name for your business is one of the first things to consider. Often businesses start organically and individuals naturally fall in to using their given name. If you’ve already built your business using your own name, and have significant recognition in your community, chances are you should keep it that way.

Not liking your name, having a super generic name or having a name that’s a little tricky to spell are considerations if you’re starting a brand-new business, but they’re iffy justifications for changing the name of an already-thriving operation.

Tip: Not sure about your name? How about your initials?

If you’re starting from square one and aren’t sure which route to go, think about where you want to position yourself in your market. If you’re running a web based business and your name’s Anna Smith, you’re making it hard for potential clients to find you. If you’re aiming to reach local clients only, this might not be a problem.

Take into account whether you plan to remain a one-person operation long-term. If you’re looking to grow your business quickly or might acquire a partner, you may want to go ahead and incorporate and build your business under a less personal name.

Tip: If you’re in a small town market and want to keep business local, a corporate-sounding name risks making clients think you’re going to be charging corporate rates.

 

2: What are my services?

Make sure your business name reflects the services you’re offering to customers. It sounds obvious, but you’ve only got a few words to communicate to clients what you do and it won’t serve you to mislead them.

Make a list of your services and see what fits best. Should you be New Name Creative, New Name Social, New Name Marketing, or New Name Studio?

For example, if you’re really looking to work primarily with social media clients, you’re going to confuse people by using the word “Creative” in your business name. Likewise, if you’re a broader creative business you shouldn’t be “New Name Social.” Some words might be catchier or trendier, but if they don’t reflect what you do, you’re going to miss out on potential clients.

If you’re not sure what fits best, go back to the drawing board and figure out who your ideal client is before naming your business. You can’t appeal to everyone – so don’t try. Tailor your branding to the clients you hope to attract.

 

3: What are some things people might associate with me or my business?

Is there something you’re known for? Do you always wear pink; do you have a well known nickname? Are you obsessed with a certain animal?

Make a list of words people may associate with you, interests and hobbies. Star the ones that would be most relevant to your business’s services and see what you can do with that!

Exhausted those ideas? Move on to making a list of qualities you’d like people to associate with your business or a list of industry terms.

Tip: Try to keep your name around or under 13 characters. 

 

4: Is this name taken?

Once you have a list of potential names, use GoDaddy to see if a similar domain is available. Then, conduct a Google search to see if anyone else has the same name. Next, make sure there is something that works available on all the major social media networks. People need to be able to find you as easily as possible – and consistency is key.

Things like being consistent with the editorial aspects – for instance, whether you use a numeral “4” or spell out the word “four” – will only increase your brand cohesion. The shorter the better – we opted for “@hueandtone” on our social media, even though our website also has the word creative (www.hueandtonecreative.com). 

Tip: Ask yourself -- is this name clear, concise, compelling and consistent? 

I was originally obsessed with the idea of “Top Knot Creative,” but someone had recently purchased the domain and claimed the Facebook page. Instead of getting stuck on trying to make one thing work (I then got fixated on Top Knot Studio) keep looking around and trying new names.

Can’t seem to find anything that’s available? Don’t get discouraged. Keep trying different combinations until you find something that works. You’ll get there!

 

5: What do other people think?

When you finally think you have a winner, conduct a quick focus group with your friends and family and see what they think. I’d originally decided on “Mood Creative” – I even had the domain in my GoDaddy Cart – when all my friends told me it made them think of tie-dye and drugs. After hearing this from four different people, I realized I should probably move on.

If your friends and family who love you don’t like your new name, imagine how hard it’s going to be to get complete strangers on board. 


After making my way through these steps (some more than once), we are now Hue & Tone Creative – and I couldn’t be happier with the name.

If you already own a creative business, how did you come up with its name? If you’re making business plans for the future, what other branding info would be helpful to you?