Ecommerce technology has become ubiquitous. These days, there are multiple ecommerce backend solutions that take the hassle of technology off of business owners, allowing them to instead focus on business growth and marketing.
Of course, this presents its own unique set of challenges. There are thousands of brands out there focusing their efforts on marketing, working to pull in a high number of top of funnel potential customers and turn them into conversions and sales. Some of those brands have massive budgets, which allow them to often own the marketing permeation of individual industries. We call these brands the “big box” brands. They are the Walmarts and Targets and Macy’s of the world –– and though their seemingly endless marketing budgets can occasionally annoy those who must balance budgets not even 1% of theirs, they are doing some pretty cool things.
And what’s more is that tons of smaller brands are taking inspiration from industry innovators and going big all on their own. You want your brand to be one of these, one of those notable small or midsize businesses which have been inspired and are now taking their marketing efforts to new heights, all within budgetary constraints.
To be inspired, though, you must first find that inspiration. Below, the marketing team here at Bigcommerce has compiled our favorite 17 marketing blogs. These are the publications we read on a daily basis. This is how we keep our finger on the pulse of the marketing industry, and where we get the inspiration that we share with all of you in our blog, on calls and in the news.
Pro tip: Like us, you are likely overwhelmed with daily tasks and bigger projects, and we know that time is a commodity. We use Feedly to subscribe to each of these blogs and to then quickly scan the daily news tofind the stories that most resonate with us. This will save you time, keep you up-to-date on all marketing trends, and help to provide inspiration for future campaigns and initiatives.
Without further ado, here are our favorite, must-read blogs and publications.
1. Buffer Blog
Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that lets you post to Twitter, Facebook and other networks at scheduled times throughout the day. Their blog is a wealth of information not just on marketing, but also on productivity and building a successful business. Their posts are well-researched, highly-engaging and just plain smart. Add them to your Feedly or follow them on Twitter.
Bonus: Buffer hosts a seriously educational Twitter Chat each week. You can find details on that schedule and their topics here.
For the content marketers at any growing brand, Contently is invaluable. The content on their The Content Strategist blog spans all areas of content and social media marketing as well as branding and industry news. They provide real examples of the strategy behind some of the best known content marketing campaigns out there, i.e. Facebook’s memories campaign, GE’s reimagined comic books, Wired’s use of Instagram for new era journalism. And though Contently’s business strategy is built upon growing content for brands, not everything they publish follow the “more is best” attitude. They also publish content for B2B and ecommerce readers –– much of it focused on how scarce content can work just as well as a high-volume.
Bonus: Contently also has a The Freelancer blog, which is targeted toward freelancers. If you want to make some extra income, hop on over there and begin learning about that business. Or, if you are looking for freelancers, this area of their site is a good place to learn how to find, hire and manage remote employees.
I’ve been a big WWD fan for as long as I can remember. I even reached out recently to one of their writers to see if he’d be up for freelancing.
@TraceWall I don’t…WWD consumes my time, heart and soul. But thank you!
— Arthur Zaczkiewicz (@arthurzaczkiew1) December 10, 2015
If you are unfamiliar, WWD is the industry news and trends publications for the retail industry. They publish a print paper as well as keep on top of everything commerce-related on their site. The publication’s full name is Women’s Wear Daily, but their content scope has expanded since its launch days. They now cover everything from industry stocks to hiring news, acquisitions to mobile commerce trends. Anything that matters to the industry will be covered by WWD.
Note: Yes, much of WWD’s content is behind a paywall, especially their news content. That paywall will often drop after about a week or so. So, be sure to jot down your favorite posts and go back to read them later. Also, Bigcommerce has a subscription to the site, so if you see something you really want more insight on, tweet it at us! We’ll do our best to write something up ASAP covering that news, and include as wide scope as to how it applies to the small and midsize retail industry.
4. Moz Blog
The Moz blog is one of the most read blogs on the internet, especially in the marketing industry. This blog focuses more on SEO and inbound marketing, though you will find quite a bit of info over there on digital media buying, lead generation, branding and industry news. Much like the Buffer blog, Moz content is always extremely well-researched, highly-engaging and just plain smart. SEO is one of the most important aspects of your brand’s marketing strategy, and it affects every single channel (content, email, social, etc). This blog will get you up-to-speed and ranking as highly as possible in no time. Remember, SEO is never a finished job. It is always about tweaking, linking and building.
Bonus: Moz is so great, they offer tons of free tools to help you better analyze how your site is performing. These include tools around SEO, local marketing, content marketing and Twitter analytics. Check them out. Use them. Why not? They’re free.
5.Think with Google
All right –– Google is one of those big box brands we talked about in the intro. But, Google’s search engines and subsequent marketing tools are some of the best in the industry. Their Think with Google blog is all about helping retailers use those tools, including inspirational tips from other both bigger, recognizable as well as smaller, but scaling brands.
Bonus: Google has access to more data than, well, almost any company in the world. And, they use that data to predict trends and educate retailers on what works, what doesn’t and why. This data is often segmented by industry, as well, which gives you a better look at your own commerce niche. For example, they cover hair care trends, auto trends, micro-moments among the larger consumer base, the difference between consumer intent and demographics, and so much more.
6. Ad Age
If you’re looking for a publication that will keep you on the edge of your seat in regards to what bigger brands are doing, this is it. This was a recommendation by our PR manager Liz Kelley, who reads Ad Age on the regular to help out in brainstorming meetings and to keep tabs on what companies like A&E, Pepsi and Volkswagen are up to. Ad Age only covers the most interesting advertising and marketing campaigns. Keep in mind, interesting doesn’t always mean successful.
Bonus: This publication also does a great job of offering the thought process behind the strategy –– helping smaller and midsize brands implement similar initiatives on smaller scales.
Similar to Ad Age, and also recommended by Kelley, Adweek is another advertising and marketing publication highlighting the amazing work of notorious agencies and bigger brands. Adweek also covers trending campaigns and/or initiatives, specifically those that go viral. For instance, many of the viral videos or posts you find online have been sponsored or created by brands. You just don’t notice because each of us is becoming increasingly banner blind. Adweek won’t go too into the details of the ROI on these ads, but it does serve as a great place to earn inspiration for any upcoming brainstorms.
Bonus: Adweek offers webinars, too! Hear from the editors, insiders at bigger brand themselves and more to get the full details on the where, when, why and how for some of the world’s most successful, interesting, innovative or just plain crazy marketing campaigns.
8. Marketing Land
Marketing Land is more industry blog than Adweek or Ad Age –– and therefore will provide more actionable tips and ideas than the other publications. Also recommended by Kelley, this site is full of list-cicles, news, quick reads, guides and more written specifically to a small business and midmarket audience. If you want more step-by-step instructions rather than just plain inspiration, this is your go-to site.
Bonus: Marketing Land is the sister publication of Search Engine Land, a similarly structured site which offers actionable tips and steps to increase your SEO no matter your industry. Both are valuable reads.
The Wall Street Journal is one of the leading business publications in the world, and they offer, also, a CMO section. This section is dedicated to covering any and all news and trends relevant to a chief marketing officer. For the most part, WSJ CMO covers bigger brands, acquisitions, trends and news. It is similar to WWD coverage, though WWD is a bit more focused on retail-only. Overall, this provides great content for both actionable strategies as well as inspiration for campaigns.
Bonus: This is the Wall Street Journal. Beyond marketing content, you can get all of your news and information here. Though, as a writer and editor, I must urge you to use multiple sources of information. Nonetheless, reading the WSJ on a regular basis will absolutely keep your head above water in regards to the business world.
10.Social Media Examiner
“Social Media Examiner constantly delivers breaking social media news I can actually use, delivered by experts in the industry,” says Leah Spector, social media manager at Bigcommerce. “The news and timely tips are applicable for every level, whether you’re running the social media marketing for your own small business or marketing for several large corporations.”
Bonus: Social Media Examiner also has a Social Media Marketing Society at only $40/month. You get exclusive industry tips, content, perks and access to an expert forum in which you can post questions and get immediate, specific advice.
“This publication exposes me to the creative and innovative campaigns across industries that I may not see in my own industry bubble otherwise,” says Spector. “It’s exciting to see what leading brands are bringing to the forefront of marketing and how I can emulate that creativity. They do a really great job of showing not just cool advertising and marketing campaigns, but how to really increase engagement for your brand.”
Bonus: Digiday hosts multiple events throughout the world, and as Kelley just said, “I’d love to go to one of those. Everything they do is just so well done!” For retailers, these events are likely a good place to rub shoulders with editors and writers who may eventually cover your store in a post. It can’t hurt to pitch them a few of your marketing ideas and see if that sparks some advice or a column idea on their side.
12. HubSpot Marketing Blog
“The folks over at Hubspot are the marketing experts,” says Spector. “From industry-leading thoughts to helpful how-tos on design, social media and even social selling, I find myself opening their daily newsletter emails every morning (not an easy feat with the email marketing stats, these days).”
Bonus: If you have a Bigcommerce store, not only can you read all of Hubspot’s great content, you can also use their platform. Click here to get the app. And check out our co-branded ebook, too!
13. Litmus Blog
“Litmus is the hands down best application for testing and analyzing emails. You can also do landing pages, too,” says Diana Winger, an email marketing specialist at Bigcommerce. “Bigcommerce recently just purchased this software for ourselves. Litmus is just the best source for all things email development, and since they are used by so many companies, they have a ton of great metrics, cutting edge technology and best practices that our readers might be interested in. Here’s a post that rounds up their best articles from the year for a better idea of what they normally post.”
Bonus: Want some insight into the backend of Litmus and how it is working for us? Leave a comment below and someone from the campaigns team will get back to you.
14. Optimizely Blog
“Optimizely is an awesome resource for providing suggestions on optimizing pretty much anything digital,” says Winger. “They post really relevant content, like how to optimize for Black Friday, and also helpful guides for social and digital mediums.”
Bonus: If you’re a Bigcommerce customer, you can integrate Optimizely on your store backend right now. Click here to do so.
15. Campaign Monitor Blog
“Campaign Monitor is a thought leader in the email community, as they provide one of the most comprehensive email compatibility checklists, and amazing resources like the bulletproof button and background generators,” says Winger. “They also have such a large client base that they can publish really interesting metrics from what words to use in your subject line to individual case studies around emails in various stages of an automation program. They also provide helpful blogs for all aspects of email marketing, from sending effective surveys to how often to send promotional emails.”
Note: So many of the big box brands use this software, from TopShop to Virgin Mobile, Birchbox to Lacoste. It is absolutely something to look into in 2016 if you are planning on using email marketing to boost loyalty and conversion.
16. Sales Hacker Blog
This recommendation was sent over to me by Graham Fleming, a marketing manager, sales enablement here at Bigcommerce. A big part of Graham’s role is to ensure that all content Bigcommerce produces is easily findable and usable by our sales team. This is a big deal for all midsize and enterprise brands. After all, if you cannot connect content to ROI (specifically sales), then you’re missing a step.
Sales Hacker helps you to solve for this. This blog offers tips and best practices for our to think holistically about your marketing and sales teams, and how they can both work better together.
Note: This is an often overlooked aspect of business –– the alignment of marketing and sales. Trust us, it is easier to accomplish this as a small brand, rather than trying to solve for it once you’ve grown. Implementing some of these best practices now will save you time and effort later –– plus further propel your hockey stick growth.
17. Spin Sucks
“For the past several years, Gini Dietrich, founder of PR agency Arment Dietrich, has quietly been running one of the most useful PR/Marketing blogs in the industry,” says John Yarbrough, senior PR manager at Bigcommerce. “Whether she is dissecting the hot button PR issue of the day, offering practical tips for more building more effective media relationships or simply sharing a list of worthwhile professional development books to consider, Gina’s advice exudes the sort of know-how and sensibility one only acquires after years of experience.”
These aren’t really blogs, so we couldn’t include them in the list about. However, all of these are still really great to follow in terms of marketing content, tips, advice and inspiration.
1. Inc. Writer Geoffrey James
Another recommendation from Fleming, Geoffrey James is one of the best listicle writers out there. Yes, listicles often get some online flack, but they are quick to read and helpful for time-constrained businesspeople. His work includes the best business books of 2015, quick and dirty secrets for writing successful emails, 57 ways to be happier and more successful and Obama’s picks for the best novels ever. Follow James on Twitter or Feedly to get all the goodness of his author RSS feed.
2. First Round Review
Fleming sent the First Round Review recommendation over to me, but pointed out that it was Melanie Kalemba, senior vice president of global sales at Bigcommerce, forwarded this over to him not too long ago. Beyond the great digital experience offered by the blog, this site covers everything pertaining to an online business, from sales and marketing to engineering and merchandising. Whatever ails you, you can find advice and best practices here. This content is engaging, well-researched and (much like the Buffer and Moz blogs) very smart.
Note: Why didn’t we include this with the list above? It’s not just focused on marketing. Though, yes, it is technically a blog.
3. This Old Marketing Podcast
“One of my favorite resources to stay up to date on marketing trends and campaigns is ‘This Old Marketing’ –– a podcast put on by the Content Marketing Institute,” says Cheri Winterberg, vice president of communications at Bigcommerce. “I enjoy listening to Joe and Robert on my commute into work. I particularly love the Rants & Raves section; it’s fun to hear others in your industry call people out for really great –– and really bad –– work. Every episode also contains a information on the history of marketing. One that sticks out in my mind was a segment on the history of comic books, which apparently became popular in the early 1930s after being published and distributed by Gulf Gas stations.”
Did we miss one of your go-to marketing publications? Let us know in the comments below!