Chapter Four: They always say don’t change horses in the middle of the stream. But if the water is rising around you and a stronger-looking horse (or a better-looking email editor) comes around…well you get the idea.

After burning more than a week and about 10 hours of my Web developer’s time trying to create emails in LoopFuse, I was about ready to launch my first email when the photos stubbornly refused to display correctly. Just then, an alert person at their rival Genoo (having read my blog whining about this issue) suggested I check them out. Turns out Genoo is unveiling e kind of easy to use, template-rich email designer LoopFuse lacked so I’m in the process of making the shift.

Stuck in a steady flow of tech issues.

(Before jumping ship, yet another shout-out to the superb sales and support folks at LoopFuse, who did all they could to help, as well as to Josh at their services partner Clever Zebo, who also jumped into the fray. For those of you with strong HTML skills in house, I’d still recommend LoopFuse as a good low-end platform and, besides the email, I like their interface. But I need to get the email portion of my marketing done ASAP, and messing around with email design was just getting in the way.

So far, the Genoo email interface looks useful, but as with anything there’s a learning curve. I managed, for example, to trash my image library by deleting the default “micro site” Genoo creates for each new user. Leave it to me to find a way to break something straightforward. (Genoo is currently tweaking their code, I understand, so anyone else who deletes all their micro-sites won’t run into the same issue.)

Suffice it to say, once more, whichever tool you use leave some time for learning and troubleshooting.

Now, for some good news. Even before launching formal content marketing, I’m getting results from the more frequent, consistent and focused blogging, Tweeting and LinkedIn commenting I’ve been doing. I was invited to do a guest post on the value of personas at the Savvy B2B blog, am in partnership talks with a Los Angeles-based demand creation agency, and got a query from a potential client about help with a lead generation program. While I can’t write “content marketing” on a check yet, after only six weeks I’m moving in different circles and getting interest from new and different potential clients.

Meanwhile, the tide of regular, paying work is picking up after the holiday lull, putting more time pressure on. The challenge new becomes to stay disciplined and to keep building out my Web site, content plan, and email blasts to not let my momentum slide. If anyone finds more hours in the day, send them my way!

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

All I want to do is paste my logo in this email...

Chapter Three: Upon trying to create my first email campaign (one of my regular editorial calendar newsletters to tell my PR friends of upcoming assignments) I ran into a snag: LoopFuse lacks the type of drag and drop email design tool I had become used to in Constant Contact. While it supposedly has tools for designing and formatting newsletters, I couldn’t find them despite multiple good faith attempts by their tech support folks.

I spent several hours trying to export the HTML code for my existing newsletter from Constant Contact into LoopFuse. No go. I next tried downloading various HTML templates from the Web to LoopFuse and customizing them. Still too clumsy to edit. So I tried several editors to customize the templates. Close, but too much of a learning curve with so much else to do. As a stop-gap, I created emails using my existing template in Constant Contact, trusting LoopFuse will track readership through the tracking codes on my WordPress site even though I didn’t create the email in LoopFuse.

(LoopFuse tells me they have no plans to upgrade their email editing capabilities. They did, however, quickly link me up with one of their partners who is looking for a workaround. If anyone can tell me what obvious steps I’m missing, or how they tackle this, I’m all ears.)

In the meantime, after finishing several stories on my content map, I tried to post them only to run into sudden problems with formatting and preserving links in WordPress, and realized that on my Web site sub-pages weren’t showing up properly on the page menus. This meant several quasi-panicked emails to my on-call WordPress guru, and several hours explaining my needs and evaluating how several plug-ins would, and wouldn’t work.

Meanwhile, helpful emails about how to do SEO continued to cross my email, leading me to wonder just how important SEO is for someone like me selling niche services largely through word of mouth. For now, I’m doing the minimum (trying to optimize URLs and adding relevant keywords into my text) and focusing primarily on developing and implementing my content marketing plan.

Speaking of which, one expert commentary I just saw recommended 8-12 contacts with prospects over a four-week period to maximum effectiveness. That’s a good reminder to focus and refine my plan for delivering this content. Which means I need to get back to creating content for my first campaign, not to mention delivering some white papers whose deadlines have snuck up while I’ve been doing all this troubleshooting.

This week’s lesson: While you’re thinking Big Thoughts about personas, scoring metrics and lead flows, keep your tecchie troubleshooters close at hand. Good thing it’s only 12 degrees in Boston so I’m not tempted to venture outside and away from the computer.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Lone Ranger Content Marketing

Chapter 1: Tools for Mere Mortals

Riding the range in search of leads...

Content marketing – tailoring stories, blogs, case studies, videos, etc. to move prospects toward a purchase – is exploding as business buyers do more research on-line. But how do the marketing automation (MA) tools that automate this process really work, and can a small – even one-person – marketing department use them effectively? Follow my exploits as I add marketing automation to my core skills of creating marketing collateral for leading IT vendors. This week: Finding an affordable and usable MA platform.

With some spare time over the 2011 holidays, I sent out some emails and used my blog to find a genuinely easy-to-use and low-cost marketing automation platforms. Manticore, ActOn and LoopFuse responded. (Thank you Terry Hew of ActOn for the fast and professional follow-up.) ActOn and LoopFuse both seemed to be good fits, with pricing of $500 or under for several thousand contacts, and the ability to score readers based on their readership histories, at least rudimentary Web traffic analysis, links to CRM systems and the ability to create email marketing campaigns.

Of the two, LoopFuse won me over because their customer list included VMware, ET ETC. – just the type of clients that are a good fit for my more than 20 years experience covering IT vendors and customers. Their plug-ins for WordPress (my current CMS) were a big draw, (no need to rehost my Web site with them, as with HubSpot) and their integration with social media platforms. Besides, they offered a free trial for up to 500 prospects, which gives me the time to do a proof of concept without any financial pressure. While 500 names might be too small for some companies, it fits my high-quality list of PR and marketing pros who have opted in to receive my email newsletter (click here to subscribe).

The on-line tutorials seemed exceptionally well thought-through, and my first support experience was impressive indeed: A phone call 30 minutes after I had Tweeted a question about how to port existing contacts and content from Constant Contact (my incumbent email platform) to LoopFuse. LoopFuse tech support seems to be hanging out on Twitter a lot, and the quality of support for a free version bodes well for their commitment to customers.

The first step in Loop Fuse’s Web-based setup wizard (another nice touch) was to install their “tracking beacon” on my Web site so it could begin tracking visitors. Despite their (again) excellent instructions and video I couldn’t find the right location on my pages to install the code. The WordPress plug-in also failed, possibly because it was incompatible the current version of the theme I’m using. But I finally found, after a Google search, the proper place to install the tracking beacon: In the “footer” section of my WordPress dashboard. (Yet another of the non-intuitive wild goose chases that makes me hate WordPress.)

While LoopFuse wants me to move right into importing contacts and setting up an email campaign, with the holiday lull ending I’m instead diving into the heavy lifting of thinking through a content strategy for selling my own B2B, IT content creation services. With the help of some excellent templates from Barbra Gaga I’m creating personas and identifying which questions each type of buyer asks at each stage in the buying cycle. After that, I’ll do a content audit to map what content I have (and what I still need) to answer those questions.

More on all that next week. In the meantime let me knowwhat challenges I haven’t covered, any short-cuts I’ve missed or how you’re doing if you’re on a similar quest.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.