How to Build Customer Trust with Blog Content – a 4 Step Process

Ed Hill: In content marketing we’re trying to answer customer questions to help customers meet their needs. Plus if we do a good job with the content customers are gonna share this content with their friends across their social networks. But the problem is creating enough content quickly.

Fifty-one percent of marketers struggle to create enough content for their marketing blogs.

To answer this question we’re talking to Jamie Grimes.  Jamie’s worked as a content strategist for marketing websites such as Autotrader.com Apartment guide.com and Healthcare IT Leaders.

Jaime Grimes: So you can use blogs to give longer pieces of information to your customers. Maybe you’re listening through social media and you find that they want a specific topic and If want you to talk about it so you can use blogs to speak to them that way or you can use blogs to tell them about your company information in a way that you know they can relate to.
Continue reading “How to Build Customer Trust with Blog Content – a 4 Step Process”

Using Content Marketing to Attract More Customers -Part 2

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Producing enough content is a major challenge for 45% of B2C marketers.

In part 1 we cover what content marketing can do for your business and why it works to attract and build trust with customers. Next we’ll cover how to write about topics that customers care about and how to get started with writing your business blog.

There are two main problems in in using content marketing to attract customers:

  • Only 39% of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy.
  • Producing enough content is a major challenge for 45% of B2C marketers.

These two problems are closely related so we’re going to look at a light and fast solution to both problems. (This data based on B2C Content Marketing 2014 Report from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs.)

Gathering Customer Question Topics for Your Business Blog

We can start to solve the content strategy problem by making a content calendar that addresses topics and keywords that are important to our customers. This is the start of helping customers learn enough that they feel comfortable engaging with your brand and eventually buying from your brand.

Our goal with content marketing is building customer trust and educating our customers about their problem. Customers will have different questions at different stages of the buying cycle. When customers can’t answer their questions they can’t move forward. To help our prospective customers move through the stages of buying, we need to educate them.

Continue reading “Using Content Marketing to Attract More Customers -Part 2”

Action & Influence of Atlanta, GA voted Best Training Company!

Train with the best Atlanta has to offer!
Train with the best Atlanta has to offer!

Super excited to announce that Action & Influence was voted Best Training Company in Atlanta, GA for 2013!

Not exactly sure how this happened, but we’re honored anyway 🙂

I definitely believe we work with the best trainers and coaches in the world. The reason behind our success is our conglomerate effort to help the world at work. To help companies reach the performance levels they desire, and to improve the lives of corporate citizens!

Here’s to a great 2014!

Donate to Wikipedia – Keep Information Free!

[Donate Here]

Dear Peter,

You are so fantastic. THANK YOU for supporting the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that runs Wikipedia and its sister projects.

Your donation covers not only your own costs of using Wikipedia, but also the costs of other Wikipedia readers.

Like the retired farmer in upstate New York who’s using Wikipedia to study the science of sludge, and the student in Kuala Lumpur who’s researching organic chemistry. The British mechanic who, after he broke his back in an accident, used Wikipedia to retrain himself as a web developer. The civil servant in Finland who set up an offline version of Wikipedia for a small school in Ghana. And the father in Mexico City who takes his little daughters to the museum on weekends, and uses Wikipedia to help them understand everything they’re seeing there.

Wikipedia’s job is to bring the sum total of all human knowledge to everyone around the world in their own language. That’s a pretty audacious mission, but with 30 million articles and 287 languages, I’d say that thanks to you and people like you, we are getting there.

On behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation, and the half-a-billion other Wikipedia readers around the world: thank you. The fact that you are helping to pay the costs of running Wikipedia means it can stay ad-free and independent of bias, focused solely on helping its readers. Exactly as it should be.

You may have noticed that for the first time this year we’ve tweaked our fundraising so that most people will only see the banners a handful of times, instead of for weeks. That’s deliberate: we don’t want people to get irritated by too many appeals. But it does mean that fewer people will figure out we’re a non-profit, and that we want their help. So if you’re willing, I’d appreciate if you’d help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to a few of your friends.

And I’d love if you’d try joining us in helping to write Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s written entirely by volunteers — tens of thousands of ordinary people around the world, exactly like us. If you see a typo or a small mistake on Wikipedia, please fix it. If you know anything worth adding, please add it. Some people find it remarkably satisfying, and maybe you will too.

Thank you again. I very much appreciate your trust in us, and I promise you: we will use your money carefully and well.

Thanks,
Sue

Sue Gardner
Executive Director,
Wikimedia Foundation
donate.wikimedia.org

Using Content Marketing to Attract More Customers-Part 1

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[As some of you know, we like to promote good ideas for other bloggers out there that are in the Agile space. We haven’t heard from Ed Hill, our resident SEO expert in a while. Good to see some stuff that is useful for Agile Bloggers!]

Content marketing is the development and distribution of relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage consumers.

Content Marketing Builds Trust with Customers
Content Marketing Builds Trust with Customers

If you’re marketing your small to medium business, you’ve seen the frenzy over content marketing. Why is content marketing getting so much attention? Why is content so effective at building traffic and sales leads?

We’re going to quickly cover:

  • What content marketing can do for your business
  • Why it works to attract customers to your online business
  • What to write about
  • How to get started

Just in the last week I’ve seen several articles on major media sites like Search Engine World, Forbes and the Huffington Post. You can skip the Huffington opinion piece, which claims, “There is no formula”, while checking out Drew Hendricks coverage of useful content building tools in Tips For Building A Strong Content Marketing Plan For 2014 . While there is no formula for quality content marketing, there is a process that you can use for your content marketing. 

Because you’re focused on marketing a small or medium business, you may not have a large enough team or the time for the formal content strategy process. But you don’t want to start without planning. You can’t build traffic by randomly posting social media snippets and blog articles on topics that don’t matter to your customers. There is a happy balance between the two extremes. We’re going to walk through a quick and effective process that mixes some practices from content strategy and methods from search engine optimization. The goal here is to quickly deliver content that matters to your customer and helps fulfill your goals as a business.

Content creation is a powerful and effective marketing strategy to build web traffic and sales leads, but it’s also expensive in terms of time and effort. 

What Content Marketing Delivers for Your Business

  • Relevant content is ideal for building customer rapport and trust
  • Consistent content creation helps to form a relationship where customers learn how to solve their problems and come to rely on your business for trustworthy information
  • Reassuring content such as testimonials and reviews helps customers lose their fear of loss, which is a natural part of the buying cycle
  • Because content marketing seeks to answer customer questions and doubts it’s appropriate at almost every stage of the buying cycle
  • Content marketing is also a rich source of relevant content that search engines will favor with higher search engine visibility and increased natural search traffic
  • Building carefully crafted headlines for your content will also deliver social media content that is easy for readers to share

How Much Content Should We Build to See Improvement in Web Traffic and Sales

  • My experience with content building shows that 100 to 300 pages of new blog or website content is needed to see a substantial increase in web traffic and sales leads
  • Building 51 to 100 pages of content can generate 48% more traffic than web sites with less than 50 pages, according to the Hubspot Marketing Benchmarks from 7000 Businesses

When practiced consistently, I’ve seen content marketing deliver substantial increase in web traffic and sales. With an efficient team posting content on a daily basis and building and responding to your community of customers through social media, you could see traffic almost double as I did with my work for ApartmentGuide.com.

Why Does Content Marketing Work so Well?

When customers are seeking a solution to a problem or a product to fulfill a need they will typically gather information before buying anything that costs more than $100. The customer wants to strike a balance between the need to solve their problem and the fear of loss. The fear of loss occurs because the customer often does not know enough about what type of products can solve their problem or even how to find the best product to solve their problem. Especially when buying something they’ve never purchased before or when spending a large amount of money, the customer begins to fear that they will buy the wrong product, pay too much for the product or even buy a product that fails to solve their problem.

Content marketing eliminates the customers fear of loss by giving them enough information to understand:

  • what types of products are available to solve their problem
  • how to judge if a product is suitable for what they need
  • how to compare competing products
  • how to judge if the price is fair for the value offered
  • how to use the product to solve their problem
  • social proof content like reviews or testimonials can be especially reassuring to customers

In part 2 we’ll talk about how to research the types of content that matter to your customers and then how to start the content marketing process.

Agile Coach Leadership Traits

scrummaster-agile-leadership-servant-job-description

What is Leadership? 

Three Styles

  1. Autocratic – Has to do with a totalitarian approach to leadership. This is more of an attitude than a leadership style.  This leader demands instant obedience, no discussions from underlings are desired. This is NOT a desirable leadership approach.
  2. Free-rein – The opposite of autocratic. This is more of a “hands off” approach. This is a good approach when dealing with highly skilled and expert individuals (professionals). Some of the more “blue collar” type individuals actually do not desire a free rein approach. They are told what to do and when to do it at work, they almost expect similar treatment at church.
  3. Participatory – Typically the best approach. Group decision-making, multiple leadership. There is, however, a leader at the head.

 Three Components

  1. PersonThe particular personality traits and leadership attributes the leader brings to the table. There are different personality types and individuals will respond differently and accordingly to this personality depending upon his or her personality.
  2. Group – The question is: “What kind of leader does this group actually need?” AM I WHERE I NEED TO BE?
  3. Situation – Leadership is situational. We can take the same leader who was successful in one scenario and place him or her in another scenario and NOT have the same exact results. Happenings may be slower, faster, not at all. Rather than success, failure could be more commonplace.  This could be related to any number of factors: geographical, cultural, social issues, political differences, phraseology, management approaches, leadership styles, etc.

Three Terms

  1. Leader – Really comes down to what a person is. He or she IS a leader. Generally a leader is one who has the ability to influence individuals to follow a particular direction or pursue a particular goal. John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Leaders are goal-oriented.
  2. Administrator – These are more result-oriented. They strive for order, to correct failures, and operate systems.
  3. Manager – same as administrator.

Leaders inspire people, but managers depend on systems. Managers attempt to adjust to change, while leaders attempt to produce it.

Leadership Check Up Continue reading “Agile Coach Leadership Traits”

Atlanta ScrumMaster Training – Action & Influence Growing the Atlanta Market

In Atlanta, GA news:

Action & influence, Inc. announced today that they are hosting more Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Product Owner (CSPO) courses in Atlanta due to increasing demand. As the only company in Georgia to have a local Certified Scrum Trainer, Peter Saddington, they want to bring even more value to the Agile community and local Atlanta companies who want to leverage Agile or Scrum to bring quicker development value to their software and services. Having a local CST gives Georgia companies a great advantage, as their employees can attend local courses without incurring the costs associated with travel. Peter Saddington is one of the 140 Certified Scrum Trainers in the world and about half of them reside in the United States. Peter Saddington is the first CST to reside in the state of Georgia. Saddington says, “Our local clients who are looking towards Agile and Scrum have greatly enjoyed having a local trainer who can service their needs without flying in another trainer from out of state. Most of our clients in Atlanta have private courses for their entire development teams and organization.”

You can quickly find local Atlanta Certified ScrumMaster classes, http://atlantascrummaster2013.eventbrite.com/and sign up as an individual, team, or company.

According to one of Action & Influence’s students, Mike Rucker, who recently took a Certified ScrumMaster course in Atlanta said, “I was very pleased to find a local group that offered such a wide choice in class days and times. It was very easy to find a class that fit within an already busy schedule.”

Other testimonials of Action & Influence, Inc. classes:

“Peter’s mastery of the subject matter coupled with his excellent presentation and communication skills made for an outstanding learning experience.” – Jim Olwine from Atlanta

“Peter REALLY did change my life. He provided such great instruction on Scrum and the duties of a ScrumMaster. He gave lots of clarity on my career direction. Great job!” – Aletha Hill from Atlanta

“VERY INSPIRING. [Peter Saddington] is one of the best instructors I have ever seen in my life.” – Parveen Yadav from Atlanta

“I can honestly say that the ScrumMaster class has changed my view on software development, and breathed welcome fresh air into some tired sails. I am genuinely looking forward to the second half of my career now, with hopes to embody in my work all that Peter laid out in the class and the skill set of a true servant leader in the technical world.” – Mike Rucker from Atlanta

[HT: PRWeb]

Why Your Sales Team Doesn’t Use Marketing Automation Leads from the Marketing Team

agile-social-media-sales-team-marketing-automation

Marketing automation software, such as Marketo and Pardot, have simplified tracking repeat web visitors, lead scoring and lead nurturing with email drip campaigns. While tracking and nurturing web visitors until they have enough information to become viable sales leads is easier, one problem remains. Without sales team and marketing team coordination, the type of leads delivered may not meet the sales team’s needs.

Last week I spoke with a field sales executive for an Atlanta software company, at an anonymous coffee shop. Sales Executive X has sold to major clients and he’s led teams of sales people. He relates that, “There are often times when the marketing team launches marketing initiatives. They send out materials to clients. Sales people then realize they’ve never heard of a marketing announcement, when clients start asking them questions that they’re not prepared to answer. Sometimes there is a disconnect between marketing and sales department within the same company”.

The obvious cure for these miscommunications is for the marketing team leaders and sales team leaders to communicate with each other on a quarterly or even monthly basis. In sales organizations where the salespeople are often under pressure to run as hard to land a $2,500 client as a $250,000 client, salespeople often have no time to research what the marketing department is currently promoting to potential customers. The marketing team can solve this problem by updating the sales team with every new issue of collateral or each new online initiative.

Marketing action is often not helping sales unless they are communicating with each other to set priorities. It is important for salespeople to be in touch with the product managers and research and development team. Occasionally, leaders will bring the sales team and marketing team together for discussion, but the best result comes from meeting on a regular time table.

For example, one company that Sales Executive X worked with decided to reward salespeople who shared customer insights with the marketing department with a $500 incentive. This initiative was mentioned once in 2004 and never mentioned again.

How much better would it be to have these meetings and solicit customer insights on a quarterly basis. But X cautions that, “There is a real danger that these meetings can turn into bitch sessions on past occasions where marketing and sales did not communicate”. It’s better if both teams assume that the other team has positive intentions. The most productive approach will be to use a questioning method to learn about problem points and analyze why they are happening.

There’s is tremendous value in bringing understanding between sales and marketing teams. Sales Executive X insisted that, “If there is a salesperson who consistently provides innovative product suggestions to the marketing and product design team, perhaps that person would serve a greater good in the organization being the liaison between customers and product design and marketing”.

By the same token, marketing teams can regularly update sales teams right before they launch a new marketing campaign. The marketing team can take an active role in approaching the sales team to learn the true criteria for a desirable sales lead. Often, sales calls can be more fruitful if the marketing team can send new leads with detailed information about the customer and their readiness to buy. You can make a huge difference in your organization by bridging this information gap.

When was the last time that your sales team landed a lead from the marketing process? Does your marketing team understand the sort of customers that your field sales people really want and need? Share your stories with us.

Use Social Marketing and Search to Promote Your Business

agile-social-media-social-marketing-search-promote-business

Social Marketing and Search for Business.

Using Social Media and Search Marketing for Your Business
Search Marketer Ed Hill Interviews Joe Koufman on Using Social Media and Search Marketing
Transcript:
First, let’s examine how Google has adapted to the rising value of social media.
We know that social media brings three main benefits to your business:
Your business exposure and branding will increase.
Social media platforms will become a new source of added web traffic to your business web site. Your analytics may show up to 10% of your web traffic coming from social sites.
The marketing insights you gain from social listening and answering customer service questions are powerful. Here’s your chance to improve your products and correct problem that are hurting your brand image.
2007
As early as 2007 Google began to include blogs on the first page of search results, this was the first step in bringing social media into search results.
2009
The converging of social and search accelerated. Google started adding Real Time Social Media to Search Results. This means that if you add a blog post, tweet or news story to the web, it can show up in Google search within 15 to 20 minutes.
2010
Social media greatly increased the volume of new information coming into the web. To keep up, the Google Caffeine update increased the speed of indexing. Now new blog posts, social posts and news items would be indexed more quickly to guarantee that your search queries will get fresh results.
2011
The Google Plus one button was launched followed by the Google Plus social network. This helped solve a major problem in search. Before social media, you never knew if a search result would be a cleverly optimized page or a high quality page that was the real answer to your search question. By having people like and PLUS ONE items, the search engines could now decide the best search results based partly on people’s votes.
Google Freshness update increases volume of recent news and trending social results in search results
Social media listening and community building is time consuming. For the 48% of business with sales from social media, social media has proved it’s worth. You may not get direct sales like you do from pay per click or SEO landing pages, but social media does help your branding, customer service and collaboration with customers.
If 57% of businesses in the survey acquired customers through blogging, you must build a business blog with posts 3-5 days a week. Your business blog can also serve as a hub for all of your social media content.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why social media is valuable to you as a marketer.
If 40-48% of businesses are getting sales from social media, the next question is: Do your customers favor certain blogs or web discussion forums? Do they just post on major social media platforms, like Facebook or do they hang out on specialized boards on Pinterest? Find out where your customers post messages, before investing the time and effort to build your social community.
When 40% of viewers purchase after seeing a video, you need two things. It just makes sense to place product demonstration videos on your web site and customer-focused, problem solving videos on social media platforms.
The social web allows users to widely share reviews of bad products. If you’re consistently getting quality complaints, the best fix is to correct your products or service. When 68% of users write product reviews, good quality products will also be rewarded in the search engines. Make it easy for customers to write product reviews on your ecommerce site. The benefits can be long lasting.
When 50% of customers are combining social and search while researching products, your business MUST be visible in both social and search. Combine a good SEO presence on the web, plus social community building so users will share your content and recommend your products to others.
I spoke with Joe Koufman SVP of Sales at Engauge Digital to find out how social builds the value of search
JOE KOUFMAN: If you think about what the search engines are trying try to accomplish, they’re trying to answer the question that you have. You go to the search engines with a question, you ask the question, and Google or Bing is trying to answer that question that you’ve posed. People are also going to social to ask questions and have those questions answered.
If I’m trying to consider what my next digital camera purchase might be or cell phone or car, often I’ll go to my social network and ask them the question. And then, who do you trust more, the company giving you the answer about why their car is the best or your friends who have had experience with that same car manufacturer?
So, to me social is a way that you can use a lot of different tools, but from a customer service standpoint answering one customer’s question through social and then having that answer indexed through search, you may be answering thousands of other people’s questions. From a product development standpoint, listening, social listening and trying to hear about what people are talking about your product or your category and then taking that and developing products that meet their needs.
Again with search, you can get scale, you can get mass. So, posting one tweet, posting one video on Youtube, posting on info graphic that you put on Pintrest or on Flicker or somewhere else. You have the ability now to disseminate that content so that it can be found by a larger, more diverse set of people who are potential consumers, who can give you ideas about the new products, who could potentially purchase your products, who can help come to your defense if you’re having a PR crisis of some kind.
So to me, the mix of social and search is really powerful because it brings scale to a conversation that you’re having in social.
Please share this video with your friends on Twitter.

Combine Content, SEO and Social Media to Grow Your Web Traffic

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In the last 2 years Google has changed the weight of the factors that put your web pages on the first page of search result listings. This is causing a flood of articles on the Death of SEO. The most useful is Ken Krogue’s article in Forbe’s Magazine.  SEO hasn’t died, it’s just gotten more complicated. Building web or blog content must meet five needs:

  • Meet user needs and answer user questions
  • Include search optimization principles to make your content easy to find on the web or in social platforms
  • Use social media methods to share your content and build your relationship with customers
  • Build significant amounts of content over time
  • Publish fresh content 3-5 times per week

Google Changes Everything

It started with Google penalizing Overstock.com for links from edu educational domains and penalizing JC Penney for buying links in 2011. The Wall Street Journal and most online marketing forums took notice.

SEO may look simple to people outside of the corporate marketing department. Leaders who allocate the resources and budget for SEO meed to realize what has happened in the last two years. The Google Penguin update punished link building schemes and several Google Panda updates forced out web sites with thin content, more ads than content, weak user metrics or a poor user experience.

The most interesting part of the Panda update is Google’s use of user metrics like time on page and bounce rate to reward sites where users stay longer to read pages with useful information. There’s no way to game this metric. Your best method to solve this need is to use social listening tools to find and answer questions and problems that your readers express in comments, forums and social media. Think long term and plan on building  100-300 pages of content, with each page focusing on a single keyword phrase that you discovered in your social listening. In the graph, you can see that traffic increases at a faster pace as you reach 150 to 200 pages of content in your blog or web site. ( Based on Hubspot.com research data.)

Will your Blog Grow Traffic or Wither Away?

Here’s how to avoid SEO mistakes and gain the first page of Google search rankings to grow your web traffic.

  1. Only spend 20% of your effort on fixing existing blog or web pages with SEO enhancements. Correcting basic SEO and technical errors on old web page or blog content is a good start, but you should put more effort into building and optimizing many new content pages that help your users. The correlation between more content and more traffic is compelling.
  2. Go beyond just building the search engine rank of your 20 top converting key words. Instead focus on building the content footprint of your site and become a trusted source of information in your niche. Check your analytics  and find what keywords actually draw users to your web site. There will be many more than 20 keywords. Your users are telling you what they really want to read on your  site. Are you listening to what users say through your analytics or through problems and questions they pose through social media? If you optimize search for 200+ long tail keywords, your traffic will grow.
  3. Customers don’t want your products, as much as they want a solution to their problem. You built research based user persona’s that tell you who your customers are, didn’t you? If you have 7 types of customers with different needs, why would you drive them to 4 product pages? You should have multiple offers, spread across 20 to 50 landing pages that solve user problems and meet their needs at different parts of the buying cycle.
  4. When Facebook created the LIKE button, they accidentally solved one of Google’s main search quality problems. Even with the Google algorithm to rank each web page using over 200 factors, users could never be sure if they would click through to a great page that solved their need or a slick sales page. Google now includes Shares of your content, Google+ and other social media signals that tell the search engines how humans rank your content. Listening to your customers and engaging them in social media discussions builds your brand, builds trust and improves your visibility to search engines.
  5. The first step before creating content is reading forums, blogs and social sites where your users hang out. What do users like or dislike about your product or service? You should be learning the problems that users face and help solve these problems. Let users get involved with your product through user generated content, games, surveys or contests. This will build trust with customers who will be happy to share your content with others. When enthusiastic customers share their great experience with their social media friends, you won’t need to buy fake artificial links.
  6. Increase the usability and decrease the bounce rate of web pages to gain search rank. Almost every landing page or blog post should have images or photos to increase user involvement. Replace your one size fits all videos with short videos that demonstrate some specific aspect of your product, answer user questions or involve users in your product story.

Have you noticed increased web traffic as your consulting or marketing  blog and site grow? Are you struggling with building more content? Tell us about it in comments.

The Agile Coach Persona – What we Say (Part 2/2)

[If you’re already an Agile Coach… see our tips section below]

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SPEECH

Fewer things are more powerful in the arsenal of coaching than our words and how we use them. Words can not only empower and enhance our leadership, but they can also discount our profile and devastate those in charge. Words are the essence of our trade. The wise coach does well to recognize that fact.

There are two key considerations about words that we use and the things we say.

  1. Words make impressions – The words that leave our mouths move through the ears of those around us and lodge themselves permanently in the minds AND hearts of those who hear. Data will be used to draw impressions regarding the kind of person we are. Once our words have logged the data and made the impression, it is beyond difficult to erase the impact. All it takes is ONE misspent word, response, or statement to cast a permanent shadow in regard to our character.
  2. Words grant permission  – We unintentionally grant people permission to adopt our use of words and speech patterns with the way we speak. Human nature dictates that people need little encouragement to speak out of the wrong side of their mouths. But when we as coaches and leaders do it, there is a tendency for people to feel free to follow suit. Coaches who exhibit empathetic and caring-controlled patterns of speech that are loving yet firmly truthful, healing, helpful, and encouraging; will find that before long that will begin to rub off on others. Remember, only a few weeds can ruin a beautiful garden!

Types of Speech that erode Character

I found it fascinating as I was thinking and researching about this… that I came up with a list of issues that I not only found troubling… but issues that I, myself, have encountered among consultants, coaches, employees alike. It’s troubling to know that we live in such a negative work environment. That, my friends, needs to change!

  • Gossip – The sharing of information about someone or something with another person who is not part of the solution. It may be true or untrue. The fact that it may be true does not provide sufficient rationale for sharing it. Telling everyone everything we know, simply because it is true, is not wholesome leadership … especially if it casts a dark cloud across or upon someone else. Gossip plants impressions that are often unjust. Gossip almost always does damage that is non-“ overcome-able.”
  • Slander – The sharing of negative information with the intent to hurt or do damage. Slander is usually born out of some wrong that has been done either to ourselves or to another that we know. It is a means of revenge, a way to even or settle a score. It reflects that our hearts have not yet learned to forgive. Continue reading “The Agile Coach Persona – What we Say (Part 2/2)”

The Agile Coach Persona – The Calling and Integrity (Part 1/2)

[If you’re already an Agile Coach… see our tips section below]

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In a lot of ways I see any type of ‘coaching’ a calling. Seriously. “Coaches” seem to be popping up all of the place these days… coaches in anything. I get it. There’s a market for it, but again, I believe is a calling. Something you’re compelled to do out of a deep desire for helping others. Nothing else.

I’m not talking about helping businesses necessarily… but helping people in LIFE. My opinion is this: A coach, helps people in lifeIt just may happen that you’re a coach for (fill in the blank) at a company or organization. That’s cool. But a coach helps people. Period.

 Characteristics of the Call

  1. It is personal.
  2. It is pressing. Do it now!
  3. It is particular. It’s very specific.
  4. It promises resources… your personal resources, time, emotion to be poured into others.

 11 Important Aspects of a Coach as a Person

  1. Servant leader character.
  2. Contagious love for helping others succeed (before yourself).
  3. Genuine love for people. 
  4. Good, friendly personality.
  5. Good physical health.
  6. Good personal emotional maturity.
  7. Careful attention to emotional needs of others.
  8. Lifestyle commensurate with a community of leadership.
  9. Dependability.
  10. Ability to protect confidences.
  11. Public relations consciousness.

The Coach and Personal Integrity (Character)

  1. Must be a person of character before you can serve as a person of character.
  2. Moral integrity – the highest.
  3. Intellectual honesty – committed to others.
  4. Giving fervor – highest desire is to help others succeed. Continue reading “The Agile Coach Persona – The Calling and Integrity (Part 1/2)”

Promote Your Blog with Google Plus

Google’s Search Plus  is an opportunity to increase the visibility of your blog in search results using some simple search methods. Google has been including Google Search Plus results in your search results since January 2012. This modifies Google’s search algorithm to gain a human review of the search results. You gain visibility if your blog content is commented, shared or liked in a social network like Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.

Since their birth in the late 1990’s, search engines have lacked a quality signal to decide if search results are really useful content or just some clever sales page devised to lure you in through a search engine. Google Search Plus adds ranking of the search results from people you know and from people you don’t know, so the quality of search results for your search queries should improve.

So how can you use Google Plus and and other social platforms to increase your visibility in the Google search results?

How to Optimize Your Blog with Google Plus

Your approach to influencing Google Search Plus will require;

  • Maintaining a Google Plus One page specifically linking to your blog or consulting web page content.
  • Build up a community in your Google Plus Circles that includes people who post content that is relevant.
  • You can affect the Google Search Plus results by placing your desired keywords into the Introduction, Employment, Education and Places lived section of your Google Plus profile. Placing topic keywords into your Google Plus profile helps Google search results, whether search users are logged in to Google or not logged in to Google. You’ll have to do the research to uncover the two or three keywords that accurately describe your specialty, in order to appear in the search results.
  • Google Search Plus also includes data from other major social networks. Distributing your content on other social networks will enhance your Google Search Results presence.
  • Google Search Plus returns search results based on your circles and activity on Google Plus. It’s important to expand the number of people in your circles. You should also use Plus+s, comments and shares with people in your circles.
  • Google Search Plus favors content that is easily shared across social networks. Having the Google +1 button visible on your content is crucial to Search Plus optimization. You’ll also want to place social share buttons for other social platforms like Facebook, Twitter or bookmarking sites like Reddit.

Becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer – CST

[I was recently asked what my journey to become a CST was like. So like an Agile blogger, I told them to wait for it to post on AgileScout.com 🙂 ]

The path to becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) is one of the most arduous yet rewarding experiences I have ever gone through (and I spent 7 years in Master’s programs!). It has not only stretched me, but brought about a greater understanding of “mastery” of a craft, that, no matter how good you ‘think’ you become at something, you can always improve, become better, learn more, and grow as a person.

The day you stop learning is day you become ineffective in your work.

My CST Journey

I began my journey to becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer back in early 2009 when I began my investigation into the process and started collaborating with other CST’s about co-training opportunities. This was a time when the CST application process was evolving (and still is) and the requirements and application process wasn’t fully fleshed out. I, at the time, had been in my 8th year as an independent Enterprise Agile Coach and felt like the CST was the right way to go. I had completed my Certified ScrumMaster designation and my Certified Scrum Professional designation previously.

In early 2009 I had my first co-training opportunity with a fellow Agile coach. They went very well. I was stoked. I was excited. I had gotten a great review and was given priceless advice on how to become better. I felt like the CST was fast becoming a reality. I flew out to meet my 2nd co-trainer and we trained together. Another great workshop. I felt great… Then:

  • Client work picked up.
  • Timing just wasn’t working out.
  • Work-life balance just wasn’t what it used to be.

A full year later, I still had yet to co-train with other coaches and trainers. My client list was full, my schedule was so tight that it became apparent to me that I may not be able to finish this race due to scheduling conflicts and overall timing not to mention funding from the CFO of my house (wife). I was burnt out, tired, and a bit frustrated.

It was all about the timing. It just didn’t seem to work. So what did I do? I made the tough choice to lighten my client load (OUCH! SCARY!) so I could open up opportunities to co-train. I made the time available, I reached out to friends and fellow Agile coaches for time slots, and I invited Agile coaches to come train with me at my client sites. I patiently prayed that the opportunities would come… and they did.

After a full 3.5 years I completed it… The road to becoming an official CST was complete… but the journey forward has just begun. YES!

[Peter Saddington Training on ScrumMaster Roles]

On Co-Training Continue reading “Becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer – CST”

How Do You Convert Social Media Data Into Marketing Insights?

The most challenging aspect of social media data is making the connection from the data you have to actionable insights that will move the needle on your marketing results. Use these questions to find the seeds of marketing performance improvement in your social data:

The purpose of your social campaigns should guide you in the type of social data you want to track. It’s important to think this through carefully, BEFORE you launch your social campaign. Do you need to go beyond the basic metrics such as user counts and user sentiment? You need to gather baseline data before your campaign, so that you can compare the changes in data caused once your social campaign launches. You need to identify the metrics that really matter when gauging if your campaign is producing social user reactions or responses. You can also anticipate what you will change if your social campaign is ignored by users.

The first question is: What are your goals for your social marketing?

  • Branding
  • Building Awareness
  • Building the audience count for your social content
  • Increasing the sharing of your social content
  • Increasing links and traffic to your main web site
  • Countering negative messages from social users who are waging a jihad against your brand
  • Monitoring consumer sentiment about existing and new products
  • Monitoring consumer needs and problems to guide new product creation
  • New product launch
  • Building more responsive customer service

What does the data mean and what do the relationships represent? One of the major benefits of real-time social data and search analytics data is that you can rapidly adapt as consumers react to your social messages, products or content.

Think of each social product launch, or attempt to gain social user reactions or new social content calendar as a real time experiment. You can use the iterative social user data points to react to user needs and adapt your operational strategies. The ideal result would be operations practices that respond to the data and to have engagement with the data built into your processes.

Comparing the baseline social metrics data to the changes during your campaign can reveal sometimes surprising insights into what customers really care about. Don’t ignore data that shows that social users priorities are radically different from what you expected. This is exactly why social media is so valuable. The social users’ needs are more important than some predefined expectations. If the answers require dramatic changes to current business practices, how can you use the data to build the business case for your proposed changes? Is there any correlation between your social data insights and trends in your search traffic analytics data?

Use these questions as a framework for building social data that will guide you to actionable marketing insights.

Preventing Search Marketing Campaign Bottlenecks

If you manage marketing for your blog or marketing for your company as part of a team, there are outside factors that affect your marketing. A solid and effective relationship with other members of your team is crucial. Sure, you can create great search marketing plans, but if they are not implemented quickly and correctly, your marketing will fizzle. I’ve seen these same stumbling blocks impede small companies with $15 million yearly sales and corporate giants with revenue in the billions. These stumbling blocks are not the quality of your SEO or your blogging. If you create a powerful blog post or effective landing page and then it never gets implemented on your web site, then no one will see it. Let’s consider some of these real world factors, within your own organization.

– Blogs may lack enough contributors to build sufficient weekly content
– Programmers or web designers may not implement your SEO changes quickly
– Executives in your organization may not allocate budget or resources for SEO or search marketing projects
– Project managers may delay SEO changes in the current development cycle, in favor of other web site programming

Implement search marketing campaigns

The best case will be having direct access to the website or blog to make content changes without burdening a developer or designer. For simply adding text content, direct access to a content management system (CMS), is the most consistent solution. Being able to directly implement SEO or content changes yourself should be a top priority. Use whatever negotiations are needed to get this type of direct control.In larger organizations, you may have no choice but to rely on developers or designers to implement your marketing changes or content.

I recently spoke with Atlanta search marketer Joe Woods, on marketing bottlenecks and how to overcome these obstacles. In some cases you are depending on a web designer or programmer to implement your SEO changes. If the programmers or designers are already loaded with other tasks, they may not have time to implement SEO work in the current production cycle.

Joe Woods sees a clear solution for these impediments. Joe says,”It’s not that your SEO recommendations are bad, it’s just that they’re not getting implemented. You’ve gotta get buy-in. When you actually go through development cycles, SEO stories get pushed back or not implemented. You’ve got to start getting buy-in on the developer level or web designer level. If you’re in an agile shop, the developers and designers have some bandwidth and some say in choosing to do SEO development stories”.

The regular iteration cycles in agile development may allow you to include developers or designers in your agile stories. This can be effective if you deliver your materials to the developers and designers early in each iteration.

Joe believes that this can be solved where the rubber meets the road, “If you can, get the project manager to see the value and the benefit of the traffic resulting from implementing the SEO story in this release cycle. Sometimes you’ve got to be a sales guy and develop a good relationship with the developers or designers. This may involve buying people lunch or using some informal setting or meeting to teach the value of SEO to the organization.”

The biggest bottleneck can be getting department heads or other executives to allocate budget money or to allocate developer, content writer or web designer hours to implement your SEO marketing changes. This problem can be resolved by presenting a case study or business case that sells the expected benefits of your SEO or search marketing changes. Joe says that sometimes the problem originates at the top of your department,  “As an SEO, I shouldn’t have to spend 80 percent of my time getting buy-in. Maybe  I should only spend 20 percent of my time, getting buy-in, getting external resources to build links or resources to write blog posts.”

All these problems can be resolved by negotiating specific commitments for developer or designer resources at the beginning of the search marketing project. This requires that your department will allocate specific resource hours that are needed to implement SEO web or blog changes during every production cycle. Negotiating these commitments, up front, with department heads, project managers and designers will guarantee that your search marketing strategies are consistently implemented to build search rankings, web traffic and conversions.

 

AgileScout.com Welcomes Faisal Mahmood as Newest Executive Contributor!

AgileScout.com is happy to announce that we’ve grown +1.

Faisal Mahmood is the author of the book Agile Adoption Mistakes You Must Avoid and several articles on Agile and Scrum. Faisal is a Certified Professional Scrum Trainer based in London, UK. Faisal trains, mentors and coaches individuals, teams and organizations during their Agile and Scrum adoption journey in London and around the world.

Faisal started using Scrum in 2005, while working for F-Secure Corporation. Since 2007, he has been helping various companies in their transition to Scrum and Agile in Finland and the UK including Telefonica O2 UK, British Gas, Elisa and Itella Information.

We’re excited to have Faisal join us! We’re looking forward to his expertise and experience!

Agile Revolution and A Raccoon Scout

The Agile Revolution interviews AgileScout, Peter Saddington 🙂

[[[Go here to listen]]] to us pontificate and bloviate about Agile 🙂

Craig chats with Peter Saddington (an Agile Coach and Consultant who is probably best known as the face behind Agile Scout) at Agile 2012 in Dallas, Texas about Agile in the US Military, the top lists on Agile Scout, his newly rewritten book “The Scrum Pocket Guide” and the state of Agile (or “Raccoon”!)

Peter is also the Co-Founder of Action & Influence and his upcoming book “The Agile Pocket Guide” will be released via Wiley in late 2012. His talk at Agile 2012 was entitled “Scaling Product Ownership at the US Air Force“. Look out for a longer video interview coming soon on InfoQ.

Agile Workouts – Get Trained – Coach, Trainer, Consultant

Wouldn’t you want to be Agile-trained by someone like this… ?

Yep. I sure would.

So, continuing on from my previous post on Agile Fitness for Coaches and Consultants which offended some people… 🙂 I find it necessary to help people move forward in their quest to be the healthiest Agile Coach of all time. Here are a couple workouts that I’ve built and used to help train others.

Introduction

  • This is a combination of strength training with overall body training.
  • This has been a compilation of several workouts and can be retrofitted with your particular style.
  • This is NOT a be-all end-all but merely a guide for your own personal fitness goals.
  • Be safe and always work out with a partner to get the gain 🙂
  • YOU WILL FIND 3 SECTIONS: Strength Training, Sport Training, and Workouts for Women (which I built out in a text format) – **Note for women: Please don’t worry about “lifting weights will make me into a hulk.” It doesn’t work that way. You don’t have enough testosterone to bulk up. Google it. Women should lift weights! 🙂
  • PLEASE SEE Peter’s 5 RULES for Healthy Living – For Coaches, Trainers, and Consultants

Note: Use this in conjunction with the Men’s Health Fitness Guide Below:

[DOWNLOAD PDF] – Total_Body_Plan_Saddington

STRENGTH TRAINING Continue reading “Agile Workouts – Get Trained – Coach, Trainer, Consultant”

The Traffic Power of Long Tail Search Keywords

So, how can your web site or blog compete with major competitor search listings on the first page of search results? By using the traffic building power of many long tail search keywords.

Natural search keywords fall into two groups, broad keywords and niche long tail keywords. A broad keyword is a one or two word phrase that people enter into a search engine, such as “cars”. A broad keyword will produce millions of search results and many of the search listings on the first page of search results will be the major, established competitors. Major competitors who rank on the first page of search listings may get a huge volume of visitors to that one broad keyword focused web page. Many smaller competitors for the search phrase “cars”, will end up on the fifth page of search results or worse. If your web page doesn’t show on the first page of search results, it might as well be invisible.

Long Tail Search Keywords
A long tail keyword is a search phrase with several words that represents a very specific search, such as “red convertible sports car”. Now imagine that you build many web pages for all the variations of of this search phrase, such “blue convertible sports car”, and many others.
Consider that there are fewer competitors for the long tail search phrases, which makes it easier for your web site to rank first for all the long tail keyword phrases that you target. The long tail keyword strategy states that you can get more web traffic by ranking for hundreds of long tail keyword searches that attract only a few visitors each, than by ranking for one broad keyword phrase like “cars”. Continue reading “The Traffic Power of Long Tail Search Keywords”

Marketing Myths – Search Optimizing to Drive All Traffic to the Home Page

Working with search marketing clients, I have sometimes encountered a belief that all traffic should be driven to the home page of the web site. Years ago, I would find online business owners who held the belief that users would want to go to the home page and then navigate the site through the menu. While this is not as common as in past years, it is still a dangerous misconception.

I once worked with an education services website that placed almost every product offering on the home page. The result was an unfocused mess on the home page that suffered a low conversion rate and a high bounce rate. Whether your site is a blog or a business website, don’t throw everything on the home page. You can also make this mistake in search optimization for your web site.

Search engine users are very specific in their queries. They are often searching for specific information to answer a question or a very specific product that will meet an immediate need. Each one of your web pages should be the answer to a different customer need or question. Mistakenly trying to answer all web visitor needs on one page, like the home page, is guaranteed to frustrate your web visitors or blog visitors. The result will be confused visitors, who will immediately bounce back to the search engine and click on another web page result.

A similar SEO mistake is to optimize only the home page and a trifling few web pages. Optimization should be applied consistently across the entire web site or blog. The SEO battle is won or lost at the page level, but since only 25-50% of your pages will eventually rank in the first page of search results, optimize many pages to increase the natural search traffic performance of the entire web site. Continue reading “Marketing Myths – Search Optimizing to Drive All Traffic to the Home Page”

Becoming an Agile Coach – Get a Mentor! + 6 Tips for Mentors

Skype Mentoring!

Over half of all the Nobel Prize winners were once apprenticed by other Nobel laureates.

As a volunteer counselor and passionate about growing other great talent in our Agile community, I often take on opportunities to mentor others. I believe in the power of mentoring others. I believe in the power of helping people grow and begin to taste their potential. It is so very exciting for me to help others. Isn’t this what servant leadership is all about?

Let’s talk about mentoring for a bit…

What exactly is mentoring?

  • To help mature someone in a practice or discipline
  • To show them how you walked the path and to lead them through their own path
  • To teach them to mentor someone else, what you are doing to them.
  • Make a distinction between mentoring and teaching. If you’re teaching, you’re telling. If you’re mentoring, your walking with them through it (high-touch).

What mentoring is NOT primarily concerned with:

  • A methodologies and exact praxis of how to do something. Not prescriptive. Who you are mentoring… is NOT your disciple.
  • Mentoring isn’t a two way street like friendship. Mentoring isn’t accountability, but it is focused, unlike friendships.
  • Personal agendas.
  • You. The focus is on them, not you. We are to pour our life into someone else.

6 Tips for Mentors

1 – A mentor takes time to know people and reveal to them new possibilities and realities

  • Mentors are good listeners and they have the ability and willingness to step over familiar ground to get to know people and bring them into the circle.
  • If you’re mentoring someone for a particular role, help an individual by inviting them into communities of that practice. Always try to bring people not in the inner circle into the circle.

 2 – A mentor gets excited when good things happen to others. Continue reading “Becoming an Agile Coach – Get a Mentor! + 6 Tips for Mentors”

Becoming an Agile Coach – 7 Tips for Client Engagement

I recently spoke with an aspiring Agile Coach the other day and spent a couple hours coaching him through taking on work as an Agile Coach and beginning his next path into coaching. *An exciting process indeed!*

He had a great list of questions queued up for me, but as we moved into the conversation it quickly became apparent to me that we needed to do was set a few ground rules… (a framework that I personally follow) with my clients.

Below are 7 areas to consider when beginning your trek into Agile Coaching and for any of us in the coaching realm, a healthy refresher of how to engage with a client!

7 Tips for Agile Coaching

1.  Don’t “jump” at the first offer (or what may seem to be the best offer) when a client comes knocking… or a recruiter comes knocking 🙂

  • ask a ton of questions – About the environment, culture, and nuances of the client or engagement.
  • seek wise counsel – know people that have worked there? Other Agile Coaches? Get the skinny before you dip.
  • what are “your” motives for considering it – Is this a strategic client to go after, or a paycheck?
  • don’t force your family and spouses to accept this new reality – A personal anecdote from a guy who has been traveling for over 10+ years, and… over 400,000 hotel points (@ 1000 points/stay). If you’re jumping into this and it includes travel. Get support for it :)… as you would with any career choice!

2.  Show up as a servant, not a savior Continue reading “Becoming an Agile Coach – 7 Tips for Client Engagement”

SEO Myths: Does Google Consider SEO to be Spam?

One of the myths of SEO is that search enhanced pages will hurt the user experience. We have all seen examples of poorly written, overly optimized web pages that deliver a clumsy user experience. The obvious example is pages with big clumsy keywords in every sentence on the page. These web pages just feel wrong to the reader.

Keyword stuffed pages stem from the myth that higher keyword density on the page leads to higher rankings. Other ancient web spam tricks like stuffing hundreds of keywords into HTML meta tags or placing hundreds of invisible keywords on the page in the same color as the background, were disallowed by the search engines prior to 1999. More sophisticated tricks such as paid links, have very publicly failed throughout 2010 and 2011. As a search marketer, I still encounter people who have a vague notion that SEO still involves such simplistic tricks, or that SEO will hurt the user experience.

SEO helps the user experience. Here’s how search optimization helps search engines to see and present your web pages clearly: Continue reading “SEO Myths: Does Google Consider SEO to be Spam?”

How to Promote your Blog Posts for More Traffic

How can you steadily build traffic and readership for your blog?

You wish you could get here! 🙂

If you are a devoted blogger, who posts on a regular (weekly or daily) basis, then you’ve already taken the first step to promote your blog posts for more traffic. Posting regularly is a crucial step in getting your readers to return. How can you expose your posts to a large circle of new readers and grow your audience?

Focus on topics your audience will want to share based on the social media and keyword research that we’ve discussed previously. Next use a variety of proven blog post formats that attract people who like to share links on the interenet. Here are some blog post types that people like to share:

  • List articles such as the Ten Best or the Ten Worst of anything
  • Video demonstrations of how things work or how to make things
  • Video interviews
  • How to do it articles
  • Photos of people and activities from club events, seminars or presentations
  • Interviews with experts in your field
  • Infographics that share fascinating or little known facts Continue reading “How to Promote your Blog Posts for More Traffic”

How to Use Analytics and Blog Search Tools to Choose Blog Writing Topics

To be a successful blogger and attract more traffic to your blog, you must write about things that are interesting to your readers and that are worthy of being shared.  How do you learn which things are most important to your readers?  Essentially, we are looking for topics that your readers in your specialty will want to share with their friends or business colleagues.

There are several tools that can help us to learn which topics are most important to your readers.  First, we are assuming that your blog is about a highly specialized set of topics.  The narrower the focus the more likely you are to attract dedicated readers.   We also assume that you are posting on a regular basis.  Research shows that bloggers who post at least two to three times a week will build a growing and dedicated readership.

Analytic tools such as Google Analytics or Adobe Site Catalyst track the number of visitors and which key words they use to find your blog through natural search.  Using your site analytics you can see the number of people who visit your site for each keyword.  Go through your analytics results and choose the top 100 keyword phrases that receive the largest number of visitors.  These key words will become the most popular topics that you can write about for your readers. Continue reading “How to Use Analytics and Blog Search Tools to Choose Blog Writing Topics”

The Agile Pocket Guide – Peter Saddington – Now on Amazon for Pre-Order!

Super excited that my next book: The Agile Pocket Guide is now up on Amazon.com for pre-order!

It’s been a long road since I first got rejected by many publishers and finally self-published and then grabbed Wiley’s attention!

#win