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I have read some discussion about the value of getting a Hub Spot Inbound Marketing Certificate and there is never a single correct answer for everybody. I guess the best way to figure out is to try it yourself. That’s what I am going to do. Any commitment can bring some positive results. If you just simply don’t have a set of time for the commitment yet, you can then read through this post and see what knowledge you may get from the course before making your decision.

Now I have finished the whole course and got the certificate by passing the first test with a score of 92. Here are some points I have learned from the process.

Inbound Certificate for Ying

Essentials of an effective inbound marketing strategy

  • Consumers don’t want to be sold to, but to be educated.
  • First, understand your buyer persona (background, demographics, identifiers, goals, challenges, how we help, and common objections) by interviewing your current customers, and identify the pattern.
  • Second, understand your buyer’s journey (awareness stage, consideration stage, decision stage), and create educational content to help them solve their problems, instead of just talking about your product and services.
  • Third, create value: content (problem solving) + context (the right audience).
  • Finally, leverage content via distribution: website, blog, social media, landing pages, calls to action, marketing emails.

SEO for your website

  • First, find out the keywords you have the best opportunity to rank for.
    • Keyword research: who your buyers are, what goals they have, what problems they face, a list of keywords they will search for, what are the common questions sales guys get from consumers
    • Use buyer persona language
    • Check which keywords people are using to find your site by using Google Webmaster or Hub Spot sources
    • Use more specific called “long-tail” keyword: High search volume with a low competition
  • Second, create content around selected keyword
  • Third, optimize your website around a primary keyword: page title, url (dash to separate words), image alt-text, meta description (no more than 140 characters)
  • At last but not at least, increase the number of links and citations to become more authoritative. Also, set up a page on the top online directories and yellow pages.

Create Content with a Purpose

Content is the fuel that powers a successful inbound strategy: in attract, convert, close and delight stages.

Inbound Methodology

Remember, you are fighting for attention instead of physical space in this post-internet era. Remarkable content is solution based, not product based. It is about your customers, the problem they are having and the answers they are searching for.

How to create remarkable content?

  1. Content Plan
  • Purpose: to get more visibility or to convert leads
  • Format: case studies, videos, infographics, whitepapers, eBooks, research reports, checklists, webinars, SlideShare decks, etc.
  • Topic
  • Identify buyer personas
  • Identify topics that matter by checking keywords, internet forums, popular industry news, sales/support FAQs, your personas’ goals and challenges
  • Identify the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision stages

Buyer's journey

  1. Create Content
  • Focus on your persona and the buyer’s journey.
  • Keep it short.
  • Keep it educational, not promotional.
  • Focus on informational part first and worry about design last.
  1. Content Distribution
  • To get the right content in front of the right person at the right time.
  1. Content Analyzing
  • Number of visits
  • Leads generated
  • Social proof, share-ability
  • Inbound links: to build authority
  • Content performance by author, topic, format
  1. Repeat

The fundamentals of blogging

Successful story: How did Marcus Sheridan save his company by informational blogging? @TheSalesLion via @nytimes http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/business/smallbusiness/increasing-sales-by-answering-customers-questions.html?_r=1

Pick a topic and a title: answer questions that customers are searching for, write about your industry, not your company, specific but short

  • Do keyword research
  • Pick one topic to focus on per post
  • Include a long-tail keyword in the title
  • Make the value of the post clear
  • Shorten the title to under 60 characters because Google cut off the rest from search engine result

Format and optimize the post

  • Use whitespace: to make the content more digestible
  • Use section headers, bullets to break up information
  • Include Images
  • Optimize the post around the long-tail keyword in the page title, url, post title, image alt-text, body and headers

Promote your offers

  • Feature calls-to-action: trial request, download more, subscribe blog
  • Link internally to blog posts
  • Share posts on social media: repeat as long as it is still valid
  • Promote posts via email

Analyze the performance

Amplifying Content with Social Media

Social Monitoring

  • Set smart inbound goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely
  • Monitor for the right terms: listen and join a real conversation, not to create a conversation
  • Segment your audience: twitter lists for segmentation, Facebook group, LinkedIn group
  • Personalize response

Social Publishing

  • Customized content for each social media
    • Twitter: 140 characters with a link and an image
    • Facebook: 250 characters and showcase your brand’s personality
    • LinkedIn: professional
  • Establish thought leadership
  • Publish on a consistent basis

Social Reporting

  • Establish benchmarks: compare your business results to other businesses in the industry
  • Calculate ROI: how many views? How many shares? How many leads are generated? How much revenue?
  • Check results at least once a week

How to Use Calls-To-Action

  • Include keywords consistent with offer & landing page
  • 1-2% CTA clicks-to submissions goal is good, 10% is successful
  • Make one small change and see how it performs, like color, texts, etc.

How to build a successful Landing Page

Call-to-Action -> Landing Page -> Thank You Page

Goal: 20% conversation rate

Best Practices

  • Write a clear, action-oriented headline (download, watch, request, etc.)
  • Explain the offer and place visual emphasis on the value
  • Remove the navigation menu and links
  • Include a relevant image, animation or video
  • Add social media share icon

How to Use a Thank You page

Best Practices

  • Deliver promised content offer or set specific expectations (when and how to contact)
  • Provide additional content (linked to relevant case studies, blogs, etc.)
  • Move leads into the buyer’s journey (another CTA)
  • Include social options

Email Marketing

Send the right email to the right people at the right time: content in the context

  • Determine your audience and where they are in the buyer’s journey
  • Segment contact database: by role, by behavior
    • Awareness stage: videos, blog posts, Slideshares, free tools
    • Consideration stage: webinars, case studies, FAQ, whitepapers, third-party reviews
    • Decision stage: free trials, ROI reports, demos, quotes
  • Send the right email at the right time
    • Responsive templates
    • Minimum font size 12,5
    • Goal setting, personalization, sending from a real person,
    • Focus on engagement: use actionable language
  • Nurture your lead into a customer

The Power of SMarketing

  • Speak the same language: use the same definition of Lead
  • Implement a service level agreement
    • Marketing -> Sales: How many leads does a sales rep need to make quota?
      • Revenue/avg.revenue per customer = # customers needed
      • Customers/avg.lead to customer close % =# leads needed
      • May vary by quality of lead
    • Sales -> Marketing: how many call/email attempts to engage should a sales rep make to every lead to not waste lead?
      • X leads and Y hours/month
    • Set up a closed-loop reporting
    • Rely on data: use dashboard to analyze
    • Maintain open communication

Marketing and Sales collaboration

Sales and Marketing SLA

The Pillars of Delight

Customers who are delighted will become promoter of your business.

  • 58% of companies say they are just now developing a strategy for delivering an integrated customer experience.
  • Customer Experience is the new marketing. – Steve, CEO of Mercedes Bens

How to delight your customers

  • Delight team members: hire for character, train for skill
  • Educate team members: every small interaction makes a difference because they create the larger experience
  • Empower team members with organization principles
  • Listening: use social monitoring as a listening tool
  • Ask questions to learn more about customers’ problem or goal
  • Educate with content
  • Follow up: email right after purchase, survey

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I made an email reminder workflow which had a small flaw that caused hundreds of emails to be sent out. I kept receiving those emails and I expected more to come. After some research finally I found a way to easily cancel the pending emails from this workflow.

Go to Advanced Search, look for Email Messages, Status Reason Equals Pending Send.

pending email


Then click Results. It will list all the pending emails. Select the ones you want to delete, and click Delete.

delete emails

What I learned from this experience is to test the workflow by setting only yourself as the recipient. Until you are certain it works, you can change the recipients to the ones you intend to.

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After using both marketing automation tools, I realize that hands-on experience is crucial in order to really know the pros and cons of the products. Here I will share some experience in both products in terms of product features, usability, and customer support.


Three years ago when I did the migration from Sales Force to Dynamics CRM, I chose CoreMotives as the added-on email marketing solution. Back at that time, I did a thorough study on the main options available on the market and narrowed down the choices to be two — ClickDimensions and CoreMotives — because of their competitive feature offering at an affordable price (check the comparison table below).

Dynamics CRM Marketing Tool Comparison

Then I sent inquiries to both of them for pricing and further information. CoreMotives responded promptly and even offered me a trial version for a month, while CilckDimensions only sent a list of pricing without any follow-ups afterwards. I still remember Heikki Erola, a great sales guy from CoreMotives, who gave me a good impression of customer service. Sometimes it is not just about how comprehensive the product is, but about how well the user manages to use the existing functions because of the proactive and patient help from the tool provider. Initial customer training is the key to the sales success, because once the user overcomes the learning curve with your help, he will not abandon all the efforts he has put in learning it and easily go for a new tool, unless

  • the current solution is too frustrating to continue to use
  • there is no account manager to follow up with the customer to make sure that he gets the full value of the product
  • customer support is slow and not helpful enough
  • competitive products significantly raise up visibility with new features or compelling price


Unfortunately many companies spend a lot of efforts gaining new customers, but very little on keeping the existing customers. I guess sales commission is one of the causes for this situation. However, those who keep a good quality of customer service always become the leaders of the industry. I think Dynamics CRM was able to get 20% of CRM market share in 2013, catching up Sales Force because of that. Booking.com is also a great example of how great service experience leads to success.


I wish I did not need to reconsider another vendor, because I know the difficulty and efforts I need to put from my previous experience in moving from Sales Force to CRM. It would cost 10 000€ if I outsourced the project, but I did it all by myself anyway. Sometimes I wonder why I always make it difficult for myself, but I just believe that improvement is always worthy trying although it means that I have to take the responsibility and any risk that might occur because of the change, while nobody knows how much efforts needed behind the scene.


Anyway I am still happy about my choice of trying out ClickDimension three years later after using CoreMotives, even though right now I am a bit frustrated by some features offered ClickDimensions as well. Now let’s compare them in the following areas including pricing, setup, customer support, web form, web tracking, and marketing automation.



Winner: ClickDimensions

ClickDimensions has a completed pricing list online while CoreMotive does not. You may negotiate with both them regarding a customized package consisting of the most suitable feature and email volume combination for you. But some features are not separable. ClickDimension is more transparent and flexible in pricing model at this moment.


Setup and Structure

Winner: CoreMotives

CoreMotives requires you to create a non-interactive account for their system to get into your CRM. They will do all the integration for you. It was an easy and painless process. ClickDimensions however requires your CRM login credentials in order to connect their system to your CRM. This sounds a bit risky when you have to give them your credentials. But it should be safe. However, if your CRM account is inactivated, the connection will also break. You always need to keep them updated regarding a valid account with system admin account.

All the features offered by CoreMotives is in one place under CoreMotives section in CRM and they are categorized in an orderly fashion. ClickDimensions however has a very confusing navigation system and too many sections. Even for one purpose like building a web form, you have to first create form field from one section, and then move to another section to create the form itself. If you need any changes for the field form, you have to navigate back to Field Form to make the changes. It is a bit frustrating.


Customer Support

Winner: ClickDimensions

ClickDimensions offers really prompt and patient customer support, and you don’t need login credentials to submit a support case. They will follow up with your case to the end, not closing the case without asking if your problem has solved. There are also tons of intuitive online training materials with clear screenshots. I usually find it easy to get my answer. Coremotives changed its online knowledge base since it was acquired by IBM, and to be honest, I like the previous website much more. Not only they require logging in now, but also the whole interface of the online resources looks boring and technical. I think developers won’t mind it, but as a marketing profession I really think they should make it more interesting than just a database. Also the quality of customer support has dropped so much. They did answer questions, but somehow gave me a feeling that they were just finishing their tasks, not really caring if I have achieved my goal or not. So many cases were somehow just hanging there  without a real closure.


Web Form

Winner: CoreMotives

I did not know how good the web form builder CoreMotives offers until I used ClickDimensions for the same purpose. CoreMotives puts all the elements and steps needed to build a web form in one page, which helps you build the web step by step within a really short time without the risk of forgetting anything. I am especially happy about some really handy features that they offer

  • Drop-down list to add a field without the need to open another pop-up window
  • Ready-to-choose field mapping
  • Field property settings show up on the same page once a new field is created without need to open another window
  • Ability to set a condition for each action. This feature is really useful because I can choose the marketing list I would like to add the lead to according to his interest
  • Different HTML code options for integrating the form on the website.

Contact Form_CoreMotives 001


Contact Form_CoreMotives 002


Contact Form_CoreMotives 003

Contact Form_CoreMotives 004


It is a bit frustrating to use ClickDimensions for creating a web form from scratch, since I need to create each form field first, including those most basic ones like lead first name, last name, etc. I don’t quite understand why they put everything so scattered. They even separate Design and Action as two different tabs, which in my opinion is totally unnecessary and may cause user to forget to add Action. Their action does not have condition option. You can create a workflow in CRM. But I think it is just too troublesome, and you also need to do some tests.

Web Form Capture is another option in ClickDimensions, which allows you to keep the original form you already created for your website. It is a better solution in terms of formatting. However, it does not offer any actions unless you create workflows in CRM, which is again a lot of work.


Now I am still trying to set everything up to make ClickDimensions up and running in CRM. Their guys are really patient in helping me out. But there are quite a lot issues in their system as well. I will write more comparison later.


Stay tuned!

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In order to keep a good tracked history of all sales pipelines extracted from CRM, it is necessary to give each opportunity record a unique number automatically created in CRM. This requires an autonumbering workflow.  This is how I managed to make the workflow work perfectly by using references from Jukka Niiranen and 

Result :automatically created Opportunity IDs starting from 10001

Autonumbering workflow_result

1.  Create a new entity called “Auto Number”, and make sure the entity will be displayed under “Sales” section.

Autonumbering workflow_create Auto Number entity

Autonumbering workflow_create Auto Number entity2



2. Create a new field called “Next Number” under Entity “Auto Number” and add it to the form. Here I set the range of auto-numbers as 10000-999999. You can choose your own range.

Autonumbering workflow_create Next Number field



3. Under “Sales” section, you will find entity “Auto Number” where you can create a new record called “Opportunity Auto Number”. In my case I set the Next Number value as 10001.

Autonumbering workflow_create Opportunity Auto number record


4.  Under “Opportunity” Entiy, create two new fields called “Opportunity ID” and “Autonumber Opportunity” 

Autonumbering workflow_create opportunity ID field


Autonumbering workflow_create field Autonumber Opportunity


5. Create a 1-N Relationship to the entity that needs the auto numbers, which in my case is Opportunity

Autonumbering workflow_N-1 relationship



6.   Create a workflow to update Autonumbered Opportunity ID

  • Create a workflow and set the properties as below:

Autonumbering workflow_create workflow




  • Update Opportunity ID in Additional Fields: AutonumberOpportunity -> Opportunity Auto Number

Autonumbering workflow_link opportunity to auto number record


Autonumbering workflow_set opportunity ID as next number property



  • Increment Next Number by 1

Autonumbering workflow_increment next number by 1

Autonumbering workflow_increment next number by 1_property



  • Set Opportunity ID as Next Number

Autonumbering workflow_set opportunity ID as next number

Autonumbering workflow_set opportunity ID as next number property


 Final Result:


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  • Duplicate the background layer as the blurred layer
  • Hide Background layer and show only the blurred layer
  • Filter -> Blur -> Radial blur, choosing blur method (Zoom) and amount (the larger, the more blurred), and click OK. The whole layer will have blur effect

Add Blur Effect 1

  • Select the blurred layer, click Add Vector Mask (the third icon at the bottom of layer tool column), then a mask layer of white background will be added

Add Blur Effect 2

  • Use the Paint Brush of black color to brush the areas where you don’t want blur effect
  • In case you accidentally paint the areas you do want the blur effect, just switch the brush color to be white and paint it again

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  1. Create a new layer on the top 
  2. Press “L” or choose Polygonal Lasso Tool to create an area where the shadow will be
  3. Press “G” or choose paint bucket tool to paint the area using whatever color
  4. Change “Fill” to 0% on the layer
  5. Double click the layer, choose Gradient Overlay, double click Gradient, choose the arrow above the bar and change the Opacity to be 0%, choose the arrow below the bar and change the color to be White
  6. Click OK. Done.

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Social media like Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, provides us with great information channels, but it also causes headache if we need post the same message to different accounts one by one manually.  There have been several useful tools for managing different accounts such as Worphy and Sendible, but here I recommend Hootsuite, which I have experienced and find it quite handy.

You can manage several accounts of 7 major services  (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Foursquare, Google+ and My space. ) within a customizable interface, which you can choose which streams to be visible and which not. One message can be either scheduled or sent immediately to all or selected social media, very flexible and powerful.

It is also easy to set up, just click “Add Stream”, choose the social media service, add your profile, and connect your account one by one. It also works if you have multiple accounts for one service. A small “+” will show up when you move the cursor to your existing account.

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