Why Now’s the Time to Check Your LinkedIn Company Page

Be prepared – the look of your LinkedIn Company Page is about to change. The “Products & Services” page will be removed on April 14, 2014.

LinkedIn’s intent is to retire this less-effective feature and remind users of existing efficient options that can also help your company gain the visibility it desires and offer ways for you to highlight key products and services. The two best options to help make this happen: Showcase Pages and Company Updates.

The Appeal of LinkedIn Showcase Pages

LinkedIn Showcase Pages are reminiscent of a Facebook page, with a large header, general info under the header, and recent posts collected below. There are opportunities to Like, Comment, and Share each post, making this a potentially interactive and social method of communicating with followers while getting company news out there in a friendly way.

Photo Credit: LinkedIn Company Pages

Photo Credit: LinkedIn Company Pages

The Showcase Page is intended for building relationships with followers about specific, long-term aspects of your company, not for short-term marketing campaigns. Showcasing is intended to enhance a follower’s interaction with your company, and a person can follow your Showcase Page as they follow any Company Page. If you want to highlight a company initiative, business unit, or represent a brand, the Showcase Page is the way to go – just be ready to maintain a consistent active presence.

What’s Up With LinkedIn Company Updates?

For relationship-building with the followers of your LinkedIn Company Page, don’t forget about Company Updates. Followers who engage with your updates may be enticed to spread your message to their networks, allowing you to reach a larger audience. How? Again, similar to Facebook, a follower’s interaction with your Company Update will appear in that person’s newsfeed so their own LinkedIn connections will see how they’re interacting and who they’re following.

Company Updates are a great way to share information like company news, promotions, latest blog posts, whitepapers, and guides, relevant industry articles, and videos. LinkedIn members can view your Company Updates on your company’s “Home” tab, and your updates will appear on the homepage of followers of your Company Page to help keep you on the radar.

sample linkedin company update

One fairly recent aspect of Company Updates is Sponsored Updates. This gives your company that ability to sponsor a company update in order to extend your reach and get your best content in front of many more eyeballs than you typically would. You can target an audience based on demographics, skills, group involvement, even job title, location, and company. These campaigns run on a cost-per-click basis similar to Google AdWords.


While You’re in Company Page Limbo

Before the Products & Services pages are deleted completely, Company Page admins will be able to edit existing products and services, but you will not be able to add anything new. It will be possible to save recommendations by copying them from the Products & Services tab into a Word doc. You can also have LinkedIn do some of the work and request a copy of the recommendations that were on the page as of March 4, 2014. Be aware: The recs will only be available through LinkedIn’s Customer Support until May 30, 2014.

What’s Stopping Your Inbound Marketing Program?

inbound marketing programConsider these astounding numbers:

  • 60% of companies will execute inbound marketing strategies this year.
  • Marketers allocate 34% of their overall budgets to inbound tactics – 11% more than they dedicate to outbound strategies, like banners, direct mail, and more.
  • Inbound marketing budgets are increasing at a near 50% pace.


  • Inbound delivers 54% more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound leads.
  • 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI for their inbound marketing efforts.
  • Inbound marketers spending more than $25K per year save an average of 13% in overall cost per lead and more than $14 dollars for every new customer acquired versus those relying on outbound strategies.

With statistics like these, as reported in HubSpot’s State of Inbound Marketing 2013, you might think inbound marketing will be an easy sell in your own organization.

Not always…

As HubSpot’s 2013 report found, inbound marketing is largely a “marketing-focused tactic.” In other words, while most marketers say they do inbound, only 17% of sales teams and 11% of executives lend their full support to inbound marketing efforts. IT is least supportive, according to the data, with 31% of enterprise marketers reporting their IT teams are unsupportive of inbound.

Where’s the Disconnect?

It doesn’t feel pressing.

With so many priorities on the list of CEOs, salespeople, and IT alike, the most urgent priorities rise to the top. Those priorities don’t always include marketing, let alone transforming the way marketing is done. For marketers, our priority is to continually improve the outcomes of our programs. This is what we think about day in and day out. So it seems obvious to us that the digital era, which has changed the way customers buy, creates a pressing need to transform the way our organizations sell.

The correlation doesn’t feel direct enough.

Sales people are conditioned to think in direct correlations between a marketing activity and sales response.  A cold call leads directly to meeting which leads directly to a sale.  A mass email leads to a response which leads to a sales call.  An advertisement leads to a phone call which leads to a sale.  Unfortunately, in the digital era where customers drive the buying process, these outbound techniques don’t work like they used to.

  • 44% of direct mail is never opened.
  • 86% of people skip through television commercials.
  • 84% of 25 to 34 year olds have clicked out of a website because of an “irrelevant or intrusive ad.”

With inbound marketing, there is generally not one single activity that results in a sales-ready lead.  Inbound marketing is an approach, not a tactic. It’s a series of events that brings customers closer to a company, moves them further down the sales cycle, and nurtures them to the point that they become sales-ready. Traditional thinkers want to see how a blog post or a social activity in and of itself will drive leads or sales. But it just doesn’t work that way. Marketing has changed.

It’s not a quick fix.

Often we find organizations in panic mode, where the need for immediate results leads to shotgun decisions. We need to do something so let’s purchase a list and blast out an email.  Successful inbound execution requires an end-to-end marketing transformation. And that can take time.

Being customer-centric is easier said than done.

I love this quote from HubSpot: “The heart of inbound marketing requires turning the lens away from a rigid, product-based strategy and toward solving your customers’ key challenges – and delighting them with insight and education along the way.” Inbound marketing, at its core, is about putting customers and their best interests first. That’s easy to say. But it’s harder to do.  

There’s still a divide between sales and marketing.

Let’s face it. As marketers we still haven’t closed the divide between our sales counterparts. We too often have different priorities. Different philosophies. We are measured by different outcomes and timeframes. We point fingers. Because of this, our attempts at affecting change and gaining their support for our inbound transformation suffers.

Inbound marketing is a philosophy and structure that drives how businesses will attract customers in the next decade. It integrates the strategies of delivering quality content and “delighting customers” throughout every facet of the business—not just the marketing department.

If your organization is still struggling to make the leap, Spark inbound marketing agency is here to help. Give us a ring.  

Recent Google+ Debate Focuses on Value of Cold Calling

Austin-based company Software Advice recently hosted a live Google+ debate titled, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” to discuss amongst a panel of marketing and sales experts whether cold calling is still an effective marketing strategy today. Each of the panelists answered three questions:

  • Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?
  • With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?
  • Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?



Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group says that “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.” But what does this mean? In today’s world of hyperconnectivity, changing the “cold” in cold calling to more of a “warm” call can be as simple as learning a little about your prospect by connecting via LinkedIn or Twitter.

However, Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, suggested that making unsolicited calls is not a high priority for investing marketing dollars, especially compared to inbound marketing tactics such as SEO and PPC that are cheaper and less invasive to buyers.

But perhaps the answer lies within a balance between warm calling and inbound marketing. At least that’s what Ken Krogue, President of InsideSales.com, says he thinks. “If we [at InsideSales.com] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them.” And the result is that there the size of the potential deals is not enough to sell into larger clients.

One point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers how valuable you are, and ultimately getting them to come to you.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below. To read the full article, visit the B2B Marketing Mentor.

Bye, Bye Google Places. Hello Google+ Local

Attention all you businesses who rely on locally-relevant search traffic. Hotel? Yep – that’s you.  Restaurant? You too. Professional services? Yeppers. Retail shops. Uh-huh. The list goes on and on. If your customers find you in part by your location, this news should interest you.

That little Google+ profile you set up and have since neglected is about to take over the world.  Well, sort of.  At least it has become quite a bit more important. On May 30, 2012, Google+ Local replaced Google Places (the listings that represent a business in local search and Google maps), which means about 80 million Google Places pages worldwide have automatically been converted into Google+ Local pages.

I’ll wait here while you run and Google your business to check it out.


So, how’s it look?

Disorienting? Confusing? Here’s the essence of this news: Google+ Local combines local business information with social networking capabilities to give business owners the opportunity to be more relevant, more marketable, and more easily found by consumers. We’ve outlined a few of the changes so you don’t miss a beat as you aim to amp up your search engine rankings and resulting revenue.

See-ya Stars, Hello Numbers

Google+ Local has replaced its star ratings with Zagat-numbered ratings. Users will no longer be asked to rate businesses on a four- or five-point star continuum – a more structured form (regarding service, atmosphere, etc.) will be used and additional comments should be welcomed by businesses.

 google+ local search

What you’ll see: For instance, consumers who Google “hotels in Pismo Beach” will get local search returns – but they’ll have to make a choice based on the 30-point Zagat rating scale rather than the very visual yellow star ratings. What’s good: The 30-point spread provides a more accurate rating of an establishment rather than offering just a blanket bad/ok/great (1 star/3 stars/5 stars) kind of review.

Get There Any Which Way

By searching through Google.com, Google Maps, Google+, or using a mobile app, users can land on the new Google+ Local pages and get the local search results they want.

google + local results 

The new “Local” tab in Google+ also takes users to a personalized local home page which will contain a collection of recommended content. Consumers can browse their home page content or continue to search as they normally would. While a user and all of their neighbors won’t see the same home page, there will be common elements. The bottom line is that if your biz is located in San Luis Obispo, you want it to be showing up on the Google+ Local home page of everyone in the 5 Cities area.

Go Social through Google+ Local

Google+ Local is poised to become as social as Twitter and Facebook with its versatility, rich content, and heightened functionality. Your friends who post photos of the amazing dinner they eat out every night on Twitpic or Instagram? Soon they’ll have a new outlet for their food mania – posts like these will be the visual fodder that makes Google+ Local pages appealing.

google+ local optimization



Google+ users can earmark pics, reviews, and recommendations for their Google+ Local “Circles” which are essentially filters that allow users to share what they want with the people they want … just like they do through other social media. However, Google+ Local’s method is much more discerning and aims to improve upon the Facebook format – users can separate out friends, family, and colleagues into their own circles.

Interact With Your Customers

Google Places gave enterprises an online presence, but through Google+ Local, merchants and business owners will have the opportunity to develop followers and directly communicate with them through messaging – essentially, the same kinds of social methods that are already available through Facebook and Twitter. According to Google, there are even more merchant features on the horizon that will enhance your online marketing efforts.

Your Google+ Local Page Will Be Indexed

If you use Google Places for Business, don’t worry – you can still access your page and dashboard as you normally would. However, the consumer face of your Google Place now shows up in the context of a Google+ Local page.

Google Places pages were not indexed, but Google+ Local pages will be – which means the opportunities for you to use SEO have just grown exponentially. If you’ve ignored that element of marketing online in the past, you truly can’t afford to do so now.

A Last Word About Google+ Local (For Now)

This new action by Google is an amazing opportunity for every business owner to develop better and stronger interactions with their customers and become social in one central place – but it also demands that you learn how to really use Google+ so you can work it to your advantage. The more you absorb and utilize the ins and outs of this development, the more your business will thrive.

Online marketing is crucial to the life of your business – don’t resist this shift. But we want to know: How do you feel about the shift from Google Places to Google+? Are you overwhelmed with yet another social media duty or excited about the opportunities that lie ahead?


Need help? We do this stuff!


How to Use Pinterest and Powerpoint to Drive Traffic and Leads to Your Website

Pinterest and Powerpoint Are a Match Made in B2B Marketing Heaven

Pinterest is a next generation social network tool that drives traffic to your website using images. 

How to Use Pinterest and Powerpoint to Drive Traffic and Leads to Your Website

Powerpoint is an older software tool that communicates important business concepts through images. 


It occurred to us that these technologies should be two great tastes that taste great together.  

And as good inbound marketing consultants, we figured out a way to put them together to help you drive traffic and generate leads. 

Step 1: Plan Your Social Media Marketing Campaign

Any good marketing campaign starts by defining the goals, strategy and tools & tactics to get the job done.  

What’s The Business Goal?

To drive visitors to your website from Pinterest and convert them to leads by getting them to download your informative Powerpoint presentation. 

What’s The Strategy to Achieve The Goal?

Create a Presentation Board on your Pinterest account where people can click on the Powerpoint slide image and go to the landing page where they download the presentation and generate a lead.

What Tools Do We Need to Execute the Strategy?

  • A Pinterest account
  • An Image of the Presentation
  • A Landing Page for the Presentation
  • The Actual Presentation

Step 2: Put Your Best Image Forward

Identify the best image you have in your Powerpoint presentation. This might be a colorful chart or a great image you pulled off of iStockphoto. Whatever it is, you’ll want to use the most visually appealing, informative and representative slide in the whole deck and make an image out of it. 

In Powerpoint, follow these steps to make an image out of a slide:

  • Make sure everything on the slide is “grouped” into one image in Powerpoint. Do this by selecting all the images and any text boxes and then clicking on Format –> Group. 
  • Now just right click (Control Click on Macs) on the entire grouped set and select “Save as Picture”
  • Save it on your hard drive; name the file something meaningful like “Presentation X Pinterest Image”

Step 3: Create a Landing Page

A landing page is a single web page whose entire purpose in life is to convert a visitor into a lead. This is often done through well written copy and the promise of downloading an in-depth article or presentation in exchange for the visitor giving up their name and email address.

For our example here, you should “gate” the Powerpoint presentation behind a small form that asks the visitor to input their name and email address to get be able to download it. This will represent your lead. 

For continuity’s sake, we suggest you use the same image in the landing page as the image you created for Pinterest in Step 2.

When you’re done, keep the URL of the landing page handy, because you’re going to need it later.  

For more information on landing pages, read this Hubspot E-book: An Introductory Guide to Building Landing Pages. If you need help creating landing pages, we heard this landing page design company is pretty good. 

How to Use Pinterest and Powerpoint to Drive Traffic and Leads to Your Website

Step 4: Upload Image to Pinterest

  • Go to Pinterest and log in  to your account. If you don’t have one and need an invite, contact us and we’ll send you one. 
  • Click on Add in the upper right corner
  • Select the “Upload a Pin” option
  • Click on Choose a File and upload the image you created in Step 1, Presentation X Pinterest Image. 
  • [IMPORTANT] Write a 500 character description of the presentation and its benefits to the end user. Make sure it’s

    How to Use Pinterest and Powerpoint to Drive Traffic and Leads to Your Website

    keyword rich! This is how people will find the image on Google and Pinterest

  • Click on the Pin It button
  • Click the Edit button you see above the image
  • [IMPORTANT]  Copy and paste the URL of the landing page you created in the Link field
  • Click Save Pin

How to Use Pinterest and Powerpoint to Drive Traffic and Leads to Your Website

Have a Board of Different Presentations Pointing to Different Landing Pages

You can create different boards for different types of content you may have – Charts, Infographics, Quotes to Live By and of course, Presentations.

You may even want to have several different Presentations Boards based on your different product lines for example.

But remember to point each presentation to a different landing page targeted to a different segment of your target market.  This makes it easier later to analyze which landing pages are converting and which one aren’t. 

We’d love to hear if you tried this technique and how it went. Did you generate traffic and leads? Let us know! Happy Pinning!

If you’re interested, check out some of our other interesting stuff like this pretty cool infographic to find out why you should work with an inbound marketing agency.

And if you want to dig in a little deeper, check out one of our latest guides – The Essential Guide to Internet Marketing as well.

internet marketing guide   inbound marketing infographic

Getting Found Means Creating LOTS of Quality Content

Content Matters

Getting your website found is a constant struggle for many companies. 

And employing search engine optimization (SEO) practices was traditionally the answer.  

But these days traditional SEO is not enough.

Today, having a substantial amount of quality content under your domain is just as important.  

Quite simply, when it comes to driving traffic to your website, content volume matters

Read more

Inbound Marketing Presentation from Hubspot CTO Dharmesh Shah

Here’s a very informative presentation from the CTO of Hubspot, Dharmesh Shah at Dreamforce last fall.

If you already have a good understanding about the inbound marketing basics, I would you suggest you skip through the first half. If you don’t it’s worth sitting through the entire presentation.

Read more

[VIDEO] B2B Social Media Statistics

Need to Justify Social Media ROI? 

Many companies need to justify their usage of social media by trying to determine an ROI. 

We understand that. 

And there’s nothing like a quick video to pack in some great examples and stats on how social media is changing the b2b marketing landscape across various industries. 

Read more

How to Convert More of Your Blog Readers to Leads

Your Blog is Your First Meeting

These days, when someone reads your blog post, it’s like a having a first meeting with your company. People find you on search or social and read your post. You, of course, make a great first impression with an informative and professional article.

They’re impressed and feel good about receiving something of value for free.

Read more

How to Attract First Time Visitors to Your Site

Demonstrate Your Knowledge & Establish Trust With First Time Visitors

Hopefully, your company’s content is read by many types of visitors: RSS subscribers, social followers and first time visitors among others. 

And while they’re all important,  first time visitors are key to your marketing program because they’re fundamental to spreading your brand and reputation to new markets.   

Read more