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Email marketing Articles


Small Biz Resource Tip: Constant Contact

November 23rd, 2010 :: mhaubrich

ConstantContact.com

Contemplating creating an e-mail marketing program, an e-newsletter or a social marketing campaign? Constant Contact is one of the leading online marketing solution companies and for a very low monthly cost allows you to create e-mail newsletters and updates, online surveys and more. You can even send marketing e-mails from your smartphone. Try Constant Contact’s free 60-day trial offer and create an e-newsletter for your customers from one of the many templates. E-mail address can be stored directly at Constant Contact. Want to discuss your needs with someone in person? The company has representatives all over the country.

Small Biz Resource Tip: Groupon.com

October 12th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

Groupon.com

Want to drum up local business and get your community talking about your company? Then you’ll want to get your business highlighted on the daily deal site Groupon. Consumers who join Groupon get daily e-mails promoting one business in their area and offering them a deal such as two-for-one specials or 50 percent off your products or services. It costs you nothing to participate, but Groupon does take 50 percent of the amount the consumer pays. The plusses outweigh the minuses, though, as this site is wildly popular and gets new customers in your front door. Then it’s up to you to get them to come back.

Using Social Media and e-Mail Campaigns for a one-two marketing punch

July 23rd, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

For the last few years people have been working with social media tools trying to increase customer acquisition and web site click through rates (CTR). Social media is at its very basic a conversation and anyone with an opinion or content can join in that conversation. This is different from e-mail which offers a more personalized and intimate level of contact with your customer.

GetResponse‘s “Email Marketing and Social Media Integration Report” found that the inclusion of social media sharing buttons in email generated click-through rates around 30% higher than email sent with no sharing options. The BizReport.com also says that “a Twitter button proved to be the most effective, increasing click-through rates by 40% but in order to garner the highest rates, around 55%, more than one social media button needed to be incorporated”.

Aweber has some great tips on how to leverage social media and e-mail campaigns together:

  • Occasionally, you may want to broadcast a brilliant newsletter beyond your list. Follow these steps to tweet your newsletter and show the Twitterverse the value of your emails. Put a sign-up form in the newsletter for new converts.
  • Post a sign-up form on your Facebook fan page. Your fans’ contacts will see any posts they make about you, and potential fans can also find your fan page via search. If they click over to your page, a sign-up form instantly invites them to join your list.
  • People who start following you via social media need a reason to subscribe by email, too. Make your web form is clearly visible, and try offering an extra incentive for signing up.
  • You aren’t the only one who can hype your campaign: your readers can, too.Buttons to share your emails on social networks offer opportunities to promote your message – and give you a chance to go viral.

Entrepreneur.com also has some great tips on making the most of your social media and e-mail marketing mix:

Make the most of the social media and e-mail marketing mix.
E-mail and social media marketing can work together to build on what each does best. Here are five things you need to know so you can make the most of the social media and e-mail marketing mix:

  1. Be where your customers are. You won’t know whether your customers are on social media sites, and which ones in particular, unless you test the waters and look for them. Different people prefer different means of getting their daily info and opinion fix. Millions like the streaming feed of Twitter. Others prefer the posts on Facebook. More professionally oriented people may use LinkedIn. You want to swim in the channels that are frequented by your customers and prospects.
  2. Use your e-mail list to build a social media presence. The big question we get from e-mail marketers is how to get that snowball rolling down the social media mountain. Here’s the good news: The secret is your e-mail list. Use it to jump-start your social media presence by inviting your subscribers to follow you on Twitter and become your fan on Facebook. They will get the ball rolling for you. How do you engage prospects on social media websites? The same way as with e-mail marketing: valuable, relevant, interesting content.
  3. Repurpose content from your newsletter. Content is still king. That applies to social media, too. You don’t need to create brand-new content to engage people on social networking sites. Instead, repurpose snippets of articles you’ve already created (or aggregated) for your e-mail newsletter. Think of these as “microcontent”-one tip, one idea, one article you found interesting. A teaser and a link back to your archived newsletter or blog is all the content you need to get started posting on social media sites.
  4. Invite people back to your website or blog. If your website is your online hub or headquarters, then think of social media sites as your satellites. They allow you to extend your business presence. When you post on social media, be sure to include frequent links back to your website, newsletter archive or blog, where interested people can learn more about your business. Then you can engage potential customerson a deeper level, away from the distractions of the social media world. Just be sure you’re not always selling; social media is better-suited for sharing information and expertise.
  5. Ask for mailing list sign-ups on multiple channels. Use your e-mail list to build a presence on social media sites, then use your presence on the sites to invite even more people to sign up for your mailing list. Put a link to your sign-up form on multiple channels, including your website and Facebook fan page. Tweet about your newsletter articles on Twitter, linking readers back to your newsletter archive, where they can sign up for your mailing list.

Your Email and Social Media Tactics

Have you tried any of these methods with your campaigns? Are you seeing a change in the relationships you have with customers and email newsletter subscribers?

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Social Media in Action Part Two: How a Farm Has Achieved Inbound Marketing Success

May 5th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

My last blog post, Social Media in Action Part One: How a Farm Cultivates Fans on Facebook, looked at one significant aspect of Great Country Farms’ (GCF) successful inbound marketing program.  With the help of public relations, social media, and event planning expert Christine Geno of Geno Communications, GCF grew their Facebook fan page 580% in 8 ½ months—and for 4 ½ of those months, they were closed (not much going on at a farm in northern Virginia during the winter months).

Just to recap quickly: GCF is a 200 acre working farm owned by the Zurschmeide family nestled at the base of the BlueGreat Country Farms logo Ridge Mountains in small, historic, rural, and beautiful Bluemont, VA.  They are part of the thriving tourism industry in Loudoun County, VA that is heavily promoted in and around the metro Washington, DC area and the Mid-Atlantic region.  Though they have gotten promotional help from Loudoun County’s very active tourism board, the Zurschmeides have done a great deal of work themselves to promote their farm.

So what is GCF and why do they attract so many fans?  Their tagline “Buy Local.  Play Local.  Eat Local.” pretty much describes what they are. GCF offers organic farm shares from May through October (list is full for 2010, but you can get on a wait list for 2011); rents their facilities for special events, and provides a fun farm experience for us city-folk, including picking produce, climbing and playing on old tractor and farming equipment, going on hayrides, shopping at their farm market/store, and petting and feeding farm animals.

In addition to cultivating a robust, active, and enthusiastic fan base on Facebook, GCF and Chris Geno (her company’s website is under construction) are successfully using several platforms to drive their inbound marketing strategy.

  • Twitter. Kate Zurschmeide tweets what GCF is currently planting and picking, and, as mentioned in the first post, their Twitter account is linked to their Facebook account, so all GCF Facebook posts are also tweeted.  Chris Geno then retweets via her own Twitter account, and her tweets are also often retweeted by others, including the local tourism board. Chris has a large media following on Twitter and has strategically positioned her Twitter account to follow media, event planners, moms groups, etc.
  • Newsletter. Members of their CSA and Fans of the Farm (aka, season pass holders—yes, there is a daily admission to the farm) receive a monthly newsletter that includes special events and promotions, recipes, farm news, produce information, and more.
  • Theme weeks. To boost attendance during the week, GCF decided to get creative and
    “theme” each week they are open.  “Future Farmers”, “Dirt Dirt Dirt!”, “Flower Power”, Berrylicious”, and “Cowabunga” are a handful of examples.
  • Auction items. GCF sometimes donates gift certificates for birthday parties to local auctions/benefits for worthy causes.
  • Military perks. Entrance fees are waived for anyone with a military ID, which Chris advertises on the USO’s and various moms group Facebook pages.
  • Bumper stickers.  Lots of cars sport black and white oval “GCF” bumper stickers in northern Virginia.  Cheap, mobile advertising!  Can’t beat it.
  • Cross promotions. Directly across from the entrance driveway to GCF is a driveway leading to Bluemont Vineyard, which is co-owned by the Zurschmeides.  Both the winery and farm cross promote each other. This is a unique situation, of course, but one they fully take advantage of.  As a result, the winery is kid- and dog-friendly and full of picnicking families during weekend afternoons.
  • Festivals. Who doesn’t love a festival?  Starting with the Marshmallow Harvest and Egg Hunt in March and ending with the Pumpkin Chunkin Weekend in November, they are holding a total of 14 festivals this season.
  • Other online channels: Chris uses LinkedIn to promote events at GCF and videos of the farm are listed on YouTube
  • Advertising. GCF has moved away from traditional advertising (in local newspapers), and instead utilizes their own website, listings on tourism websites, and word-of-mouth advertising to promote the farm.

Great Country FarmsBecause of their extensive marketing efforts, GCF is a known entity in northern Virginia.  They have gotten a lot of coverage in the news media, on local blogs and television stations, their parking lot is packed on nice weekends from spring through fall, and rental demand for weddings, birthday parties, corporate retreats, and group events has taken off.   Not bad for a family farm, huh?

All photos courtesy of Great Country Farms.

How to Make E-Mail Marketing Core to Inbound Marketing Success

April 16th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

We have all used e-mail in some capacity for our online communications, almost all have received emails promoting something and many of you reading this have used e-mail to market a product or service.

There are great e-mail marketing companies like Network SolutionsConstant Contact, MailChimpCampaign Monitor and Blue Sky Factory to name a few. There are many others so we are not recommending a particular one, only to let you know that you can find one that serves your needs and your price point. These days, they all address the needs of social media and as in my interview with John Arnold of Constant Contact, John says “Share, is the new Forward button”.

Power of e-Mail in Your Inbound Marketing Efforts

You might think that e-mail is an old technology and not part of this “inbound marketing” thing but you would be wrong. In fact, it is one of the most important components you can have in your inbound marketing strategy. One of the core things you can do as a small business is create an e-mail newsletter. It could contain products you sell, knowledge you have or things you have found across the web. Whatever it is, Monika Jansen, one of our talented writers here at GrowSmartBusiness, mapped out eight great ways to have a stellar e-mail newsletter and they are:

  1. Send it to the right people. Know who your audience is (hint, it is not everyone in your address book!).  Unless you put together a solid list of people who would find your newsletter useful, few people will read it.  Keep in mind that whether you use Network SolutionsConstant ContactVertical Response, or someone else, you cannot buy a list and use it with their programs.
  2. Keep it short. Just like with blogs, no one has time to read a long article, let alone several long articles.  Include one article/topic of no more than 300 words.  If there is more information to share on that topic, write about it in your next e-newsletter or provide a hyperlink to your website in case readers would like to learn more.
  3. Make it easy to pass along. Be sure it’s easy for people to forward and subscribe to your newsletter.  Email marketing programs provide ways to do this in their templates.  Use them!  Remember, the more readers the better!
  4. Include graphics. Photos, illustrations, even charts or graphs will make your newsletter more interesting to read and look at.  Just be sure they are relevant to your topic.  I like to pull photos off of Flickr for this blog (type in Creative Commons in the Advanced Search box—you can use any of those photos), but most email marketing programs allow you to use photos in their gallery (you’ll have to pay for that feature). Be sure you give the photographer or artist credit for the graphic you are using.
  5. Use your logo and your logo/company colors. This is just good branding.  You want your readers to recognize your newsletter as yours.
  6. Keep format and delivery timetable consistent. People like consistency.  If you’re going to share a tip, an interview with a client, or a coupon, do it in every newsletter.  Figure out a delivery timetable and email your newsletter out around the same time, whether it’s every month, every other week, or every week.
  7. Let content build on previous topics. This will keep readers eager to hear what else you have to say on a subject, and it’s easier for you—you don’t have to keep thinking up new topics.
  8. Use attention-grabbing subject lines. The subject line that shows up in your readers’ inboxes must be intriguing.  It can be witty, sarcastic, silly, a little out-there, whatever.  It just needs to be compelling enough to get your reader to click on it.

Making E-Mail the Center of Your Inbound Marketing Hub

Here is the beauty of e-mail marketing as the center of your inbound marketing hub. Follow me on this one…

  • Use web site, Facebook Fan Page, and every other place to sign people up on newsletter
  • Make blog e-mail enabled for people that want that kind of delivery
  • Use e-mail delivery to bring people back using various promotions you can track
  • Enable social media sharing tools so readers can spread the word
  • Measure, Rinse, Repeat

On a related note, Amy Garland over at Blue Sky Factory wrote about e-mail and inbound marketing last year and has great advice on three question you need to ask first so you can effectively run an e-mail marketing campaign.

Are You Using E-Mail In Your Inbound Marketing Efforts

Are you currently using e-mail in your inbound marketing efforts? What do you find to be successful? Any best practices or lessons learned? Please leave a comment.

I am Inbound Marketing and So Can You – Book Review of "Inbound Marketing"

April 13th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

Last fall, the co-founders of Hubspot and InboundMarketing.com put out a book which is the core of what their company does, measure inbound marketing efforts and success. For many, the term was a bit nebulous and hard to define. Ken Yeung over at Solutions Are Power has a great overview of Inbound Marketing and explains Inbound Marketing as essentially “marketing focused on getting found by customers.

Basically this means that whether it’s through tools like search engine optimization, social media, etc. as opposed to anything outbound where you are paying to get people’s attention. David Meerman Scott says that it’s akin to “earning your way in” and I think that inbound marketing is a pretty good thing to work on.

David did the forward for this book and it is a solid read with all the fundamentals you need to understand and execute an inbound marketing program.

Inbound Marketing Mantra – Get Found, Convert, Analyze and Improve

There are four sections in this book – Basics, Getting Found by Prospects, Converting Customers and Make Better Decisions. The basics are well, the basics. Tells you what this whole inbound marketing thing is, asks you a hard question if your web site is a marketing hub and not a megaphone.

Getting Found by Prospects discusses content, search and social media tools. Converting customers is about how you use those tools I just mentioned and turn those visitors to your marketing hub to real leads and then to customers. They continue with the process by analyzing campaigns and other metrics from the various tools to understand success. They also define the various people that need to be a part of this team and contribute to the overall success of the inbound marketing program.

Overall, a Solid Application Book with great case studies

It is a quick read (I finished it in about 3 hours) but it provides what you really need to know along with the tools and HOW TO USE THEM. Almost all business books can be separate into two groups – theory or application. This is about 5% theory explaining the concepts and 95% application with the tools and how this fits into the inbound marketing campaign.

If you are a marketing practitioner or in a small business where marketing is one of the hats you wear, you need this book.

You can find out more about the writers at Hubspot.com and InboundMarketing.com and the book is over at Amazon.

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Using Inbound Marketing to set up your own Small Businesses "Watering Hole"

April 7th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

Have you ever heard of the term “Inbound Marketing”? I bet you know what “Outbound Marketing” is if I mentioned a few terms – trade shows, seminar series, email blasts to purchased lists, internal cold calling, outsourced telemarketing, and advertising.  These methods are called “outbound marketing” because a marketer or small business owner pushes their message out far and wide hoping that it resonates with that needle in the haystack. While this works in some cases, for many small businesses they don’t have the budget to experiment or invest in the size that these programs require to get a measure of success.

Inbound Marketing Defined

The concept “inbound marketing” is where you use tools like your website or blog to construct a “hub” for your business and hopefully, your industry to attract people naturally through search engines. Ways people do this is by utilizing social media tools like blogs, Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages as a start. This dramatically increases the chances you will be found by those looking for the help you provide. Companies “get found” in this way because potential customers are already learning about and shopping in your industry, therefore they are using .

Setup Your Own Small Business “Watering Hole”

A great analogy from Hubspot is the “Watering Hole Analogy“:

“The best analogy I can come up with is that traditional marketers looking to garner interest from new potential customers are like lions hunting in the jungle for elephants.  The elephants used to be in the jungle in the ’80s and ’90s when they learned their trade, but they don’t seem to be there anymore.  They have all migrated to the watering holes on the savannah (the internet).  So, rather than continuing to hunt in the jungle, I recommend setting up shop at the watering hole or turning your website into its own watering hole.”

Upcoming Inbound Marketing Series

This month the them is “Inbound Marketing for Small Business” and we will be connecting the dots and showing you the tools and best practices to set up your own “watering hole”. Stay tuned.

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CRM: Five Tools that Can Improve Your CRM

February 23rd, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of using a good CRM tool for your business. Anything you can do to make it easier to stay in touch with your customers, as well as connect with new customers, is worth while. Customer relationship management software can give you the added edge you need, by bringing together information about your customers as well as helping you track when you’ve communicated with them. These days, there are plenty of different options including robust CRM options like Salesforce or ACT! But a few tools can help more than others, especially if you have specialized needs when it comes to contacting your customers.

  1. Gist: In addition to standard CRM features, Gist can go out and find more information about your contacts. It can automatically important information from your email and online networks, as well as conduct searches to help you find news about your customers.
  2. Highrise: If you have a few other people in your business, Highrise can help you coordinate your communications. It’s got a shared company-wide address book, along with task management features that allow you to delegate and follow up on communications.
  3. Relenta: Email marketing is crucial to small businesses and there are CRM tools built with your business newsletter in mind. Relenta can pull in contacts from Aweber, Constant Contact and a variety of other sources to make sure that you can market your product or service effectively.
  4. Aplicor: Need some analysis done on your customer list? Aplicor provides a suite of tools that will help you get a clearer picture of who your customers are and what they want. This tool can also integrate your informationwith productivity and accounting tools.
  5. PlaybookIQ: If your biggest concern is identifying leads and following up on them, PlaybookIQ can help you organize your contacts. Built with leads in mind, this toolgets your sales team all on the same page.

While it seems like cost should be the first consideration for a small business owner choosing a CRM solution, this can be one of those situations when spending a little money now will pay off down the road. It’s more important to choose a tool that will not only allow you to communicate with your customers and earn repeat business, but will also help you grow in the future. Switching to a new CRM system can require re-entering the whole database of contacts you’ve built up over the years if you choose an option that doesn’t have an easy import or export option — not something you’re going to want to do every time your business gets bigger.

It’s also worthwhile to check what tools can be integrated with the software and hardware you’re already using. For instance, Gist offer an iPhone application, as well as an Outlook plugin to help you stick with the tools you’re already using. Not all CRM tools offer such features, of course, but the more steps in your process that your tool can automate, the more time you have to spend on marketing.

Image by Flickr user Macinate

Pass It Along: 8 Tips for a Successful E-Newsletter

February 22nd, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

From cocolinda on Flickr

Like blog writing, e-newsletters can be really fun to write while at the same time being a great way to position you or your company as a thought leader.  Make them entertaining, keep them filled with useful content, and give them personality, and you will attract eager readers. 

OK, that last statement was a little disingenuous.  It’s not really that easy.  There are several other things that go into a successful e-newsletter.  (By successful, I mean one that is not only read by people but that also drives traffic to your website.)

Here are 8 quick tips to help you put together a successful e-newsletter: 

  1. Send it to the right people.  Know who your audience is (hint, it is not everyone in your address book!).  Unless you put together a solid list of people who would find your newsletter useful, few people will read it.  Keep in mind that whether you use Network Solutions, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, or someone else, you cannot buy a list and use it with their programs.  
  2.  Keep it short.  Just like with blogs, no one has time to read a long article, let alone several long articles.  Include one article/topic of no more than 300 words.  If there is more information to share on that topic, write about it in your next e-newsletter or provide a hyperlink to your website in case readers would like to learn more. 
  3. Make it easy to pass along.  Be sure it’s easy for people to forward and subscribe to your newsletter.  Email marketing programs provide ways to do this in their templates.  Use them!  Remember, the more readers the better!
  4.  Include graphics.  Photos, illustrations, even charts or graphs will make your newsletter more interesting to read and look at.  Just be sure they are relevant to your topic.  I like to pull photos off of Flickr for this blog (type in Creative Commons in the Advanced Search box—you can use any of those photos), but most email marketing programs allow you to use photos in their gallery (you’ll have to pay for that feature). Be sure you give the photographer or artist credit for the graphic you are using.
  5. Use your logo and your logo/company colors.  This is just good branding.  You want your readers to recognize your newsletter as yours.
  6. Keep format and delivery timetable consistent.  People like consistency.  If you’re going to share a tip, an interview with a client, or a coupon, do it in every newsletter.  Figure out a delivery timetable and email your newsletter out around the same time, whether it’s every month, every other week, or every week.    
  7. Let content build on previous topics.  This will keep readers eager to hear what else you have to say on a subject, and it’s easier for you—you don’t have to keep thinking up new topics. 
  8. Use attention-grabbing subject lines.  The subject line that shows up in your readers’ inboxes must be intriguing.  It can be witty, sarcastic, silly, a little out-there, whatever.  It just needs to be compelling enough to get your reader to click on it. 

11 Things You Need to Think About in an Online Marketing Strategy

February 11th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

If you have a small business these days, chances are you are online in some fashion and looking to leverage that channel and do some sort of online marketing. In order to prepare for your online marketing activities we came up with 11 lessons learned that you should consider with your online marketing strategy.

1.) What is Your Pitch?

Many clients I have met want to run head first into online marketing without asking a simple question – what are we pitching? The art of the pitch revolves around the marketing message you are looking to convey combined with the take action that the person you are engaging will take.

2.) What Are Your Goals with Online Marketing?

Once you have the pitch and the take action down you need to ask another very fundamental question – what do you want to accomplish with online marketing? Some goals can be to get new leads or subscribers or store customers.

3.) Where Are Your Customers to Engage Them? (email newsletters, online video)

Gone are the days of “build it, they will come”. You have to build a web site but also reach out in many different channels to get attention. You have to go where your customers are and engage them. In some cases it can be after the fact when they sign up for a newsletter or subscribe to your blog, only to be brought back to your site when the offer is right. In other cases it is using tools like online video, Twitter and Facebook to engage them.

4.) What Will You Offer On Your Web Site?

When you build your web site you should ask a fundamental question and that is “what will you offer someone that visits your web site?” and that is because people will come there interested in your business and wanting to get something from it. This could be a free e-book, photos, contact info. Something that people need. This can also be separated into specific offers that are tracked and go to a certain place. They are called landing pages.

5.) What is the “Take Action” on Your Web Site? Subscribe to email newsletter, Get Leads, Sell Something, Get an Appointment?

Following up right after you know what you will offer on your web site, you need to ask a follow up question – what is the “take action” of this site? Should my goal be to get an email address for a newsletter? Sell them a product? Make it easy to request an appointment or free consultation?

The site needs to have a take action in some form or because if you spend your time driving traffic and potential customers to your site and there is nothing to take action on, then there is nothing you will gain from having the web site in the first place.

6.) Should Have a Blog?

These days many people are almost expecting a company to have some sort of blog but many companies fail miserably at it using it as a press release dumping ground or worse writing a few things at first and then…..nothing. So you have to ask yourself, is your company the type of place that would benefit from having one? Do you have the resource to dedicate to it? Are you looking to establish your company or you as a thought leader or is this a channel that can connect you with your customers in dialog?

7.) Should You Leverage Social Media Channels? (Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, MySpace, YouTube)

I mentioned above that you will need to be where your customers are to engage them. As part of your online marketing strategy is the emerging and hot topic of social media. The core of social media is about having conversations with people and being at various “outposts” where your customers are located. The most popular social media channels are Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. You must explore and research where your customers are spending time and how they like to interact with you.

8.) What is Your Search Engine Marketing Strategy?

Yes, this old chestnut. Search engine marketing is really the tip of the spear in your online marketing strategy. All your activities do one of two things – improve your search engine results so people find you better or you use search engine marketing/advertising so people find you better. All to come your web site and take action in some form that we mentioned above. This works in unison with things like social media that increase your search engine rankings and improve your results.

9.) Will You Advertise? What Types?

There are many types of online advertising, pay-per-click, banner ads, video ads, etc. The main question is, will you advertise to direct traffic to you? It should be some aspect but you need to to your homework on what might work. Most important is to have your campaigns identified and test, test, test.

10.) What Are Your Metrics of Success for All of This?

Each business is different in how they measure success. Before you jump into all these activities we talked about above you need to know what will be a measure of success for your campaigns. If you have an e-commerce site it might be % of visitors converted to sales. If you have a content or services web site you might be looking to maximize your e-mail or blog subscribers so you can market to them at a later time.

11.) How Will You Measure?

That depends on the tools your employ and the metrics you need to gather. If you are looking to track social media metrics, you can utilize a tool like Radian6. If you are tracking pay-per-click or landing page campaigns, you can use a tool like Google Analytics. There are many tools out there and you need to know the metrics of success first and then researching for the tools will be much easier.