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Hugh Byrne

3 Lessons Learned With Responsive Design

Hugh Byrne B2B - 07/25/2013-12:18 PM

 

If you're like most b-to-b publishers, you're delivering a PC-optimized Web experience in a soon to be post-PC world.

So it's time to migrate your website(s) to responsive design: Displaying content that arranges automatically based on the device and screen size of the viewer.  This lets you provide optimal reading, navigating, and viewing from any device, from a desktop PC to a mobile phone.

In this post, I'll tell you about the transformation underway at GreenBiz to mobile-first, what we've discovered—and what we have yet to learn.

It's true that most b-to-b users are still using PCs to browse websites, but that's rapidly changing. In fact, PC shipments are forecast to drop 7.8% worldwide in 2013, IDC reports.

So it makes sense that Mashable declared 2013 the year of responsive design (conveniently announced shortly after launching its own responsive-design site). With the rise of technology to support multiple platforms, you'd think every publisher would have made the switch by now.

The diminishing clout of the PC is further highlighted by the dramatic rise in mobile traffic:

 

 

Tablets are clearly picking up ground. They have so far surpassed laptop sales in 2013, and are projected to outsell all PCs by 2015. And smartphones appear unstoppable, on pace to sell nearly a billion units this year.

At GreenBiz, our site has won awards for years. We want to continue winning awards, and so we are midway through a site overhaul, having drunk the Kool-Aid for adopting a mobile-first strategy. But like many things in life, what seemed like a no-brainer decision still presents a few challenges.

What we are finding:

1. Mobile Loves Pictures
Creating multiplatform news requires rethinking the role of images. In a desktop environment, our images are often an afterthought, stock photos providing a graphic complement to a largely text-based news item or blog post. On a mobile device, the feature image plays a larger role (literally) in drawing the reader into the article. Our editors are going to be spending more time thinking about images and how they contribute to telling the story across platforms.

2. Farewell My Leaderboard
Ad-serving technology is still playing catch-up to responsive design. There's just not a great solution for 728x90 leaderboards, and while you can use javascript code to swap ad tags based on device size, it's an inelegant solution with a decidedly workaround feel. But the 300x250 size is a happier story, as it works just fine across all platforms. And sponsored content is particularly well-suited for mobile.

3. Plug-Ins Need to Catch Up
Like a lot of publishers, we've added capabilities to our website that involve skinning third-party tools to appear native on our site. Things like our job boards, directories, e-commerce tools, and marketing automation, all neatly integrated into our site are going to stick out like a sore thumb when applied in a tablet or mobile phone environment. We're re-evaluating these vendors based on their mobile roadmap, and in some cases will be seeking new providers.

These are just a few of the challenges we've encountered, and as we near launch in the coming months there will undoubtedly be more. I'll keep you posted.

 

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Hugh Byrne

Welcoming Our New Video Overlords

Hugh Byrne B2B - 06/18/2013-10:57 AM

 

B-to-b publishers have been downright inert about coming to grips with video. Nearly a century after Philo T Farnsworth broadcast his first electronic television signals, many b-to-b publishers are at best paying lip service to its marketing powers, with a few token videos on their sites, and perhaps a YouTube channel. 

And who can blame them? Evaluating the ROI of a video investment is challenging. Video can be painful to integrate into website and editorial workflows. It doesn't necessarily produce compelling metrics in the traditional sense (i.e., pageviews), and decent analytics are often divorced from standard site analytics, or worse, non-existent.

That's about to change. 

New and enhanced platforms and player technologies designed specifically for b-to-b are gaining traction, giving marketers tools to better promote products and services within video content, and integrating with CRM and marketing automation systems to help optimize conversions. 

The trends driving video’s growth among b-to-b marketers are compelling, and publishers would do well to take note. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 B2B Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, video content is now used by 70 percent of b-to-b marketers, up from 52 percent in 2011. And 58 percent of b-to-b marketers view video as an effective marketing tool, comparable with their opinions on such b-to-b publishing staples as blogs, e-newsletters, research reports, and white-papers. 

While many b-to-b marketers utilize YouTube for hosting and promoting videos  (as well as placing them on their own sites), YouTube is primarily a community-building and branding platform, and virtually useless for anything related to lead generation and conversion.

That's where new platforms can give b-to-b publishers an edge. At GreenBiz Group, we've been testing out two of these platforms: Vidyard and Wistia. Both provide video marketing platforms, along with tools to manage, measure and optimize video content. In addition to standard ad serving technology, Vidyard integrates usage data with leading marketing automation platforms, including Eloqua, Marketo, and Hubspot. Wistia provides similar capabilities for Pardot (Sales Force), Hubspot, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact.

Now instead of just providing general play stats or ad impressions, we can report audience and lead-gen data to sponsors on who watched their video, for how long, and on which site and pages for videos embedded in other sites.

And for videos that promote our own events and products, we can use these same detailed viewing statistics to identify prospects for our own programs, and trigger drip marketing and sales campaigns via our marketing automation application.

As audiences continue to migrate towards mobile devices, video as a preferred form of content is growing at a disproportionate rate. For our own sites at GreenBiz, nearly 50 percent of all our video consumption currently takes place on mobile devices. As our mobile audience continues to grow, video will inevitably play a larger role in our content creation and distribution.

With new technology enabling publishers to take better track and monetize their video audience, b-to-b publishers may have finally found a reason to tune-in.

Hugh Byrne is SVP of Product and Audience Development for GreenBiz Group.  Find him on Twitter at @greenbiztweets.

 

 

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Hugh Byrne

Three Lessons Learned from Implementing Marketing Automation

Hugh Byrne Sales and Marketing - 05/20/2013-12:39 PM

 

Move over social media. Something new has come along for publishers that’s making audience development (nearly) sexy: Marketing automation.

Seemingly overnight, media blogs, webinars and conference sessions are hailing marketing automation, behavioral targeting and lead nurturing as the new panacea, offering publishers opportunities to deepen their relationships with audiences and sponsors. And within all the hype is more than a kernel of truth. Marketing automation can give publishers tools to engage with their readers more intelligently, and add value to their customer relationships by providing richer, more nuanced views of what prospective buyers are doing.

For my organization, GreenBiz Group, we’ve found marketing automation to be a valuable means of quickly identifying, segmenting, nurturing and converting the best prospects for our paid conferences. It’s helped us quickly convert newsletter subscribers browsing our events pages into paid conference registrants, and also proven to be a more effective tool than traditional methods in supporting sponsored lead gen programs, not only increasing response, but also providing sponsors with richer data about user behavior that better identifies where they land in the sales funnel.

So you’ve got the marketing automation bug? Here are three things you should consider when planning and evaluating the myriad of technology choices in this rapidly growing sector.

1. Software may be the least of your expenses. While marketing automation software isn’t cheap, the costs of setup and integration with existing systems can grow quickly. To really gain the full benefit of the behavioral targeting opportunities, publishers need a complete picture of how users are interacting with their marketing and content. It’s to your advantage to go all in, integrating site pages, Web forms, email, e-commerce apps, CRM, etc. Whether you migrate current functions (e.g. newsletter management) away from dedicated email services, or build integrations to share information between systems, you’ll need to evaluate the time and cost of training staff on new processes, as well as the development costs for custom integration.

2. What users say is interesting. What they do is more interesting. Most marketing automation packages come equipped with an array of features. These include progressive profiling, which lets you ask a few questions with each web form. Fewer questions increases conversion rates, but still lets you build a comprehensive user profile over the course of several interactions. While self-reported information can provide valuable qualification information, erroneous or flat out deceitful answers are not uncommon, making it only one part of the equation.

Marketing automation software lets you see what users are doing on your site, and this can be valuable for identifying purchasing interest. By flagging key sections or pages on your site (e.g. comparative specs or pricing data on products), you can identify and focus on users who not only have the authority to purchase, but who also behave with intent to purchase. Developing lead scoring methodologies based on self-reported and behavioral data lets publishers offer sponsors a richer lead profile, which can be provided at a premium over traditional qual form data.

3. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. As valuable as marketing automation is for enhancing sponsor programs, it’s even better for your own product/service sales activities. Identifying and flagging prospective advertisers to sales staff is a natural. Perhaps even better are programs that convert to sales directly, such as premium content or conference passes. In this case, prospective buyers who respond to email or ad campaigns, pay repeated visits to event pages, or who visit pricing and registration pages can be flagged and added to automated nurture campaigns. These can be highly effective at speeding conversions.

These are just a few of the considerations when planning for marketing automation. And while the planning and investment in marketing automation software requires a significant commitment of time and resources, the upside is that you provide greater value to sponsors for lead gen programs, improved performance of event and premium content efforts, and overall greater insight into which content investments provide higher ROI. And all of that is more than worth the effort.

Hugh Byrne is Senior Vice President at GreenBiz Group. You can find him on Twitter at @greenbiztweets.

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