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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

The basics of digital and online marketing

This video lesson covers the basics of digital and online marketing.

Take more courses on digital marketing here.

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

How to boost online marketing reach using Social Media?

This video lesson covers the basics of how to boost your business’s marketing reach using social media.

Click here to take online courses on social media marketing

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

Sales Pipeline and its Seven Critical Stages

sales pipeline is a kind of visual representation of the various stages needed to convert potential customers into a client. The status indicates their (potential customers’) respective position in the pipeline thereby enabling an individual salesperson or a company to forecast the amount of sales that can take place in a given time period. A sales pipeline ascertains whether or not the process of sales is following the right steps. A well designed sales pipeline often determines long-term success of a firm starting from proper lead generation to maintaining a loyal customer base.

A sales pipeline essentially also diagrammatically describes the process of selling. It encompasses all the necessary steps which are needed to be taken in order to complete a sales process and also ensure long term customer loyalty. It vividly describes the entire journey taken by a salesperson starting from the process of acquiring the information about the potential customer, making the initial contact, qualifying the prospect as a lead and then further qualifying the lead as a prospective customer and then finally closing the deal and providing the customer a post-sale service. This entire process is represented by a sales pipeline.

Stages of a Sales Pipeline

There are seven broad stages which need to be followed for implementing a sales pipeline. If you are an individual salesperson or a company, you can follow these seven steps to ensure long term sustainability of your selling process.

The following are the seven essential stages of a sales pipeline:

  • Lead Generation
  • Nurturing of Leads
  • Marketing Qualified Leads
  • Sales Accepted Leads
  • Sales Qualified Leads
  • Closing the Deal
  • Providing Post-Sale Service

Lead Generation

The first step of a sales pipeline is lead generation. Following a mix of marketing strategies like email marketing campaigns, organizing events and sharing web content, the company can generate considerable amount of leads for their product or service.

The first step of the sales pipeline is very essential as the company needs to accumulate as many leads as possible to ensure the success of the following stages.

Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is the second stage of a sales pipeline. A company can qualify the leads, generated in the first round, even further by means of marketing automation tools. This helps them to obtain the list of quality leads.

Lead nurturing is a very effective and efficient technique as it not only ensures more accuracy in the entire selling process but at the same time it also makes sure that the company does not waste money after pursuing the wrong leads.

Marketing Qualified Lead

The leads which are more likely to become a customer are filtered out by the process of lead nurturing. With the help of marketing analysis the Market Qualified Leads are being filtered.

Ideally these leads are the ones which are perceived to be more important than the others. The marketing department of the company needs to consider these leads as the base of any further marketing process.

Sales Accepted Leads

The Market Qualified Leads are further filtered by means of matching the key targeting criteria in order to obtain the Sales Accepted Leads. Initially after filtering the information on the basis of parameters like demographics and occupation, in this stage the leads are further classified based on various socio-economic and psychographic segmentations.

The Sales Accepted Leads have verified propensity or intent of making the final purchase. This is in fact is the last stage of lead filtration, done from the strategic marketing perspective, till it is given to the sales rep, who on their part, further classifies the data according to their knowledge and understanding.

Sales Qualified Leads

The sales representatives then further analyses the leads and then delegates them to a dedicated account manager. Sales Qualified Leads are quantifiable sales opportunities. The leads have specific and clarified needs that they have mentioned. There is also a specific timeline and budget associated with this list.

These are the list of leads that have already made viable purchase decision. These are the list of people who are almost ready to make the final purchase of the product or the service. This is the step where the lead gets transformed into a prospective customer.

Closing the Deal

The deal is closed when finally the lead or the account which is being targeted, completes the purchase within the specific time period. Closing a deal, also essentially indicates the conversion of a lead into revenue for the firm.

The salesperson or the company must ensure timely delivery and implementation of the product or the service at the desired location of the purchaser. This is the step where the prospective customer gets transformed into an actual client for the company.

According to the fundamentals of the concept of sales pipeline, the revenue generated from the sales should be attributed in order to make the sales campaigns better and stronger. The target of the new campaign should involve more lead generation and conversions.

Providing Post-Sales Service

The steps of a sales pipeline does not end after closing the sales deal. Post-sales service is also critical in ensuring long-term loyalty of the customers. Continuing the engagement with the client often results in more sales in the form of referrals and repeat purchases.

This is a very critical aspect of the concept of sales pipeline. Post-sale services do not guarantee instant profit for the firm but in the long run it helps the firm to make more profits.

Loyal customers are more likely to contribute to the revenue of the firm by making additional purchases or referring the services or the product to other potential customers. So, old clients can also be a good source of quality lead generation for the firm.

Sales pipeline follows systematic steps of generating leads and transforming them into customers for the company. Starting from lead generation to providing post-sales services, every step of the pipeline is critical for the success of the selling process. A successful sales pipeline will help the company convert its best customers into consultants who will provide them with further leads.

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

A Review of the Online Sales and Marketing Funnels

In some businesses, marketing and sales are two separate departments, and in such companies the sales funnel is separate from the marketing funnel. For optimum sales, the two must work in harmony. In small online businesses, there is no distinction between the two but rather there is one longer funnel. There is no one answer as to what stages each funnel has, and even the terminology differs from writer to writer.

The Marketing Funnel

The role of marketing is to research their market, to know who their target market is and to bring as many people into the funnel as possible. They then use a marketing funnel which consists of the stages: awareness, consideration, preference, and action. The marketing funnel tracks the steps that prospective buyers move through before they make a buying decision (1). As prospects move through the marketing funnel, the marketing team captures certain statistics e.g. number of visitors, number of clicks, conversion rate, etc. which they use to take action and to refine their marketing strategies. From what the prospects do, the marketing team knows whether to send more information or to make a follow-up call (1). So here is how the marketing team uses the marketing funnel.

  1. Awareness – They create brand and product awareness to stimulate interest in the product, using various means, like paid advertising, blog posting, public relations, free seminars, free webinars and social media.
  2. Consideration – Interested people will click the given link to visit the website. They read the sales letter which provides intrigue (by sharing product benefits) and incentives (free downloads or free e-courses or free coaching session) and persuades them to take action.
  3. Preference – Some people will leave and move on but others will compare the product to similar products and they will show interest by staying longer on the website or by revisiting.
  4. Action – In the online world, the required action is to provide contact information in order to get the free gifts. Of those who opt-in, few will purchase right away. The rest will need further sales effort before they can buy.

As soon as the people share their contact information they leave the marketing funnel and enter the sales funnel and they become sales prospects (2). In a large organization they are literally handed over. So why is it called a funnel? Naturally, many targeted people will see the information or the ad, less will spend time on it to explore and consider the product, and even less will take action. The numbers narrow down like a funnel.

The Sales Funnel

The people who opt-in will not necessarily purchase straight away. Most will need more persuasion before they buy (3), which is why most online marketers use email newsletters through autoresponders.

  1. Value provision – The sales function of the business uses regular newsletters to provide valuable information that the prospect can use but not enough to do without the product. While sharing the valuable information, the sales team provides more information about the product, e.g. its benefits and how it beats the competitors.
  2. Decision phase – Those prospects who are interested in the product will evaluate the product more and compare it with similar products in order to make a decision. This action is captured by the system.
  3. Action – Eventually some of the prospects will buy. Of the total prospects captured at the end of the marketing funnel, a smaller number will eventually buy.
  4. Loyalty – The sales team can add a loyalty stage in order to get repeat business or to generate referrals.
  5. Repurchase or Upsell – The sales team can then upsell a more expensive product or manage to get the person to keep buying the old product.

The Sales and Marketing Funnel for Small Online Business

For the small online business, there is no separation between the sales funnel and the marketing funnel. The sales and marketing funnel can look like this:

  1. Awareness – in which the targeted person becomes aware of the product through an ad or blog etc.
  2. Consideration/preference – Some people take an interest, check out the product, research the product, etc.
  3. Action phase – They opt-in to download the free gift and to find out more about the product.
  4. Value provision stage – the business owner sends a series of email newsletters with valuable information or a free course.
  5. Decision phase– interested prospects keep evaluating the product through the email newsletters till they decide whether to buy or not to buy.
  6. Action phase – Some of the prospects buy the product.
  7. Loyalty phase – Loyalty of the buyers is maintained in various ways to keep the buyer interested so that they can buy again. Satisfied customers are the best advocates as they talk about the products on social media.
  8. Repurchase or Upsell – The business can upsell more expensive products, e.g. a premium product or an advanced course.

The marketing funnel and the sales funnel are different in a large organisation, but in a small business it is just one funnel, the sales and marketing funnel. In the sales and marketing funnel, it is common for a person to jump from stage 1 to stage 3 and stage 6 in one day if they have been looking for the product already. In fact this is what is taking place these days as people search the internet when they want certain products (1). But for those who only become aware of the product because of the awareness campaign, it takes longer to make the buying decision. That is why they need more persuasion while doing their research on the side or while getting ready to buy the product. All the same, from the beginning when many people see the information about a product to the time they buy, the numbers keep dwindling. It is common for the sales rate to be 1% of the original number who clicked on the ad.

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

Considerations for Mobile Website Design

Mobile internet is a basic necessity these days. Mobile users are extensively accessing web on their devices from every location. Therefore, your site should be interactive enough and content focused to keep the users engaged. These are the few basic considerations you need to have before making a mobile website design.

  1. Design to fit a Smaller Screen

Designing a separate site for your mobile is an utmost necessity. Whatever your site might be about, the design should be made for a screen resolution which is smaller. This will help you make your site more readable to the user.

  1. Design According to the Business Objective

A digital news portal should not ideally have the same mobile website design as an online shopping website. Make the design as per the business needs. For instance, in the case of the news portal, the layout and background should be such that the user can easily read the text. On the other hand, the design of a shopping website should contain images of the items to be sold.

  1. Study Past Browsing Data:

It is always a good idea to study past browsing data before designing or redesigning an existing mobile website. It will help you understand how the users browsed through the information provided and accordingly you can make the website more interactive.

  1. Scripts, Lightboxes and Pop-Ups should be Minimum

Avoid designs which contain lots of pop-ups and distractions in the form of lightboxes. As the attention time of mobile internet users is low and over that if the design offers too many distractions, the user tends to stay for lesser time on the site.

  1. Make it Responsive

The website needs to be optimized in a manner that it is responsive to the commands to the user. Different screen resolutions backed by technology enabled interfaces makes your website more responsive.

  1. Keep it Simple But not too Simple

The mobile version of your website should be simpler than the desktop version. But, don’t make it too plain either. User designing features like different drop-shadows or interactive gradients makes it interesting.

  1. Single-Column Layout is the Best

A single-column layout is better suited for your mobile website. This makes it easier for the users to scroll down and browse for information.

  1. Establish a Collapsible Navigation

If you need to put too much data in your mobile site, then a collapsible navigation is always a wise choice. It helps the user to choose and select the required information more effectively.

  1. Give Interaction Feedback

Since the user is using a smaller screen or interface for navigation, interaction feedbacks are essential. For instance, if someone clicks a link on your mobile website, the color of the link should change to inform the user that his/her function is noted.

  1. Test Your Website in Different Mobiles

Your mobile website ideally should be readable from all sorts of mobile devices. So, don’t use Flash as it would not be displayed on an Apple mobile device. Test your mobile website in different forms of mobiles and check its accessibility.

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

Social Media Marketing Tools – Research and Analysis


The use of social media marketing tools have been on the rise over the past few years, especially as social media has become a core component of an organization’s online and digital marketing strategy. Here is a list of features and requirements that the use of social media marketing has surfaced and the various tools that provide these features and functions.

Features of Social Media Management Tools

There are various types of tools that are available in the market. Some of the categories include the following:

  • Tools for larger enterprises that have large social media monitoring teams
  • Tools that let organizations consolidate management of their various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, Google+ and Instagram.
  • Tools that let agencies work with their customers
  • Social media monitoring tools that enable customer service support
  • Tools that let organizations acquire more customers and grow their business


The overall goals of social media marketing and monitoring tools is to

  • Manage one’s brand image
  • Interact with visitors and customers on social media
  • The organizations should be able to track its social media marketing and monitoring activities with an enterprise’s customer growth, revenue growth, and in general overall business growth goals.


Social media tools capabilities

General Features

  • A consolidated inbox that brings in all the conversations in one place
  • Social media managers can act on the messages by tagging them as leads, follow-up, respond, etc.
  • Monitor using hashtags and keywords
  • Complete audit trail showing an organization’s and its employees responses
  • Based on the tasks identified from social listening, assign and manage tasks. For example, identifying leads is a common task and how that lead needs to be followed up with can be assigned as a task
  • Publish messages across various social media platforms from one tool.
  • The tools need the ability to store and manage content that is used in publishing. This can include whitepapers, images, posts, etc.
  • Approval workflows that allow employees to create posts and messages and route them to managers for approval
  • Have the ability to create a publishing calendar and review it
  • Once posts and message are selected, the tools allow for automated scheduling
  • The tools should have the detailed ability to track and report data and insights on the effects of social media marketing on the company’s image, customer growth, and increase in revenues. In a nutshell, the data analytics must be able to quantify business value.
  • When monitoring activities for multiple clients, need to manage social listening of all clients from one platform

Social media analysis and reporting

  • Competitive intelligence – how competitors are using social media to promote their content and brand and products
  • Combine data with Google Analytics to see a bigger picture
  • Predictive intelligence reports
  • Get an idea how one’s social media efforts measure up against the competition
  • Based on historical performance get recommendations on content
  • Socialbakers provides tools to benchmark ones performance. One can compare two Facebook pages for examples to measure performance

Listing of Select Social Media tools

  • https://sproutsocial.com/
  • https://hootsuite.com/
  • http://tweetreach.com/
  • https://klout.com/
  • http://socialmention.com/
  • https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/
  • http://keyhole.co/
  • https://www.brandwatch.com/
  • http://buzzsumo.com/
  • http://glean.info/
  • http://www.digimind.com/
  • http://howsociable.com/
  • https://www.nuvi.com/

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

Inbound Marketing Versus Outbound Marketing (and Demand Generation)

Inbound and outbound marketing are the two popular methods for demand creation.

Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing refers to using content marketing to position ones business and online site to attract online visitors and traffic and to convert them to leads. Content creation, therefore, is a major component of the inbound marketing process. The time and dollars investment to strengthen ones inbound marketing systems focuses on content creation around blogs and posts on the blog, product descriptions, and creating other useful content meant to attract online visitors through various online channels. Social media is another major source to implement inbound marketing as posting content for the benefit of your online community organically attracts visitors, which then can subscribe as leads on a site. The build up of original and good content around certain topics and industry verticals also contributes to strengthening ones organic SEO position and ranking thereby attracting visitors through search engines.

Popular inbound marketing tactics in the digital and online space use the following methods:

  • Blogs with rich content
  • E-mail Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Establishing and running online communities related to specific verticals.
  • etc.

In the above methods, online visitors usually land on the marketers website by looking for information. It is therefore referred to as inbound marketing because online visitors make the move to find the organization and its products and services.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing on the other hand refers to reaching out to targeted audiences in an attempt to capture leads. It refers to crafting content with the intention of using it to attract visitors and leads. The focus here is to reach out to online audiences who are not actively looking for an organization’s products and services. However, an organization reaches out to specific target audiences with specific content with the hopes of creating or highlighting a need for the online user thus trying to entice them to sign-up as a lead.

Examples of outbound marketing include the following:

  • Writing Press Releases
  • Online advertising
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) methods
  • etc.

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

Do social signals such as shares and likes count as backlinks for SEO?

One of the hotly debated topics over the past few years have been whether social signals (e.g. social media Likes, shares, and so on) contribute toward a site’s higher ranking in SEO. A few years ago, staff from Google apparently stated that social signals were not used as a ranking factor for web pages. The thought was based on the following:

  • It’s easy for anyone to create fake social media profiles and post links to those pages. With so many social media platforms and the possibility of many fake accounts makes Google wary of using those as valid back links.
  • The authority of social media pages where links are shared isn’t easily established as it can be for regular web pages and websites.

Due to these and some other concerns, the understanding in the SEO community is that social media signals don’t contribute (or not as much) to a site’s organic search ranking and SEO.

However, during testing, some web pages with many shares across social media have shown improvements in their organic search rankings. But that may be because of the indirect effect of sharing. Links that are shared extensively over social media get a lot of exposure and are much more likely to be picked by someone and included on their website or blog.

The bottom line is that sharing on social media is encouraged and the more social signals you pick up, the better it will be for your brand, inbound traffic, and has the potential to get back-links if some from those who see your link decide to link to your web page from their site.

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

Factors that negatively affect a site’s organic search rankings

Webmasters should be wary of factors that not only can negatively impact a user experience but also a site’s SEO parameters that in turn can impact its position and ranking within organic search and SERPs. The following are some of those factors:

Black hat SEO techniques to Avoid

  1. Keyword stuffing – Some webmasters stuff their web pages with keywords hoping to improve search engine rankings. Although this may have worked in the past but search engines today have become much more intelligent to allow such types of practices. The rule of thumb is that if it’s not a good read for the users, then it won’t be good for the search engines and the site’s and / or page’s overall rankings.
  2. Spamming blogs with comments – Many black hat online marketers until today spam the comments sections of many blogs hoping to get backward links. This definitely is something that won’t work.
  3. Doorway pages – Some webmasters implement doorway pages on which they get traffic only to direct that traffic to the other sites. Search engines don’t look at such techniques favorably.
  4. Duplicate content – Although it’s alright on occasions to reference content from other sources, completely copying and duplicating content can land the site in trouble, especially if it’s done persistently. Websites with original content are much more likely to be placed higher in search engine rankings than those with duplicate content.
  5. Over use of anchor texts – sites that over use anchor text are more likely to be picked up by search engines as being unnatural. For example, repeatedly using the anchor text “SEO tips” from around the websites is unnatural. Instead, use natural expressions as anchor texts to point to relevant webpages.
  6. Use of hidden texts – Some webmasters hide texts and keyword phrases on web pages thinking of not being caught. They would make use of either small fonts or invisible colored fonts to hide texts from the users. What they don’t realize is that web crawlers can easily detect such black hat techniques.
  7. Cloaking – This refers to presenting one set of content for search engines but when the user clicks on a link, it instead redirects the user to a bad or spammy site. Although search engines have built in the necessary intelligence to detect such techniques, it’s unfortunately being used extensively by many in the industry.
  8. Links coming from link farms – Some webmasters post links in link farms hoping that link backs from such sites will improve their search rankings. On the contrary, search engine crawlers have become intelligent to weed out such link neighborhoods and can impact the trustworthiness of your site.
  9. Content or Article Spinning – This refers to taking an existing article and rephrasing it to make it look like an original content. Again, search engine algorithms today have built in a lot of intelligence related to understanding and interpreting natural languages and their syntax.
  10. Clickbaiting –  In this technique webmasters create a headline that has nothing to do with the actual content. The idea is to try to get clicks on the link. Even though it may work in the short run, search engines will quickly detect such techniques when they analyze the page’s bounce rate and low session duration.


It’s clear that employing these black hat SEO techniques involve a lot of work and effort. Webmasters and marketers are better off investing the same times and effort on creating useful content and building a good online presence that can add to the overall user experience. These techniques, even if they are successful for the short term, eventually get caught with undesirable consequences such as dropping of ranking overnight, getting websites banned or delisted from search engines, and much more.

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Digital Business Consulting – Online Marketing and Growth

How to capture online leads from within Facebook?

Capturing leads is an essential step in the overall marketing and selling process. When marketing online, this step is usually accomplished by directing users to landing pages, which provide various types of promises and offers to entice users to provide their E-mail IDs. When marketing on Facebook, one of the methods that online marketers use is to direct Facebook users away from Facebook to an external landing page.

Facebook, however, has made this process through the availability of Leads Ads, which has made this process simple by letting users stay within Facebook and to sign-up for various offers provided by online marketers. The way this works is that a Facebook users on seeing an Ad, clicks on the Ad and is presented with a form that is pre-populated with the user’s information such as E-mail, name, etc. If the user wants to continue with providing her or her information, they simply click submit and the information is submitted to the marketers.

Using Facebook Leads Ads has many advantages over the traditional landing page method. First, it reduces the number of clicks and typing that the user has to engage in to provide their information to the marketer. Second, the user gets to stay within Facebook and not leave to an external site that he or she may not completely trust. Third, as most social media and Facebook activity is on mobile phones, the user doesn’t have to type in to fill the small form on their mobile devices to provide their information. This is because Facebook fills in the required fields for the Facebook user from the information that is already available to them of the user.

Some of the cons of this approach are that the marketer has to manually download all the E-mails and upload them in their E-mail marketing systems to make them part of the auto follow-up systems. However, some external apps are already providing some of these integrations and one can expect Facebook to fill this gap within a short time. (Get Facebook marketing training online)

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