Is Your Marketing Knowledge Too Old-Fashioned?

Old fashioned marketingIf you graduated with a marketing degree more than a few years ago, your expertise remains valuable but it could be starting to show its age. As you know, the world has become more connected, more social, and more instantaneous. Consumers have different expectations than they did before the era of instant communication. As such, classic marketing techniques have changed – have you kept up with the times?

Let’s use the common press release as an example. In the past, press releases were written for journalists; they were a means of convincing journalists to share their stories with their readers. While marketers continue to send press releases to newspaper reporters and broadcasters, they have switched gears. Today, instead of crafting press releases for news organizations, marketers write them with a much broader market in mind: customers and prospects. In addition, these press releases are posted on company webpages, blogs, social media sites, and press release distribution sites.

Another shift has to do with graphic design. It’s no longer enough to create a logo and color scheme and use them consistently. All interactions across all channels should be branded; they should be highly visual and engaging. They should be easy to digest and understand. The keyword here is unified messaging. While larger companies have graphic design teams that largely handle the design and user experience, marketers today must be knowledgeable about both visual design and usability concepts as they tend to be more involved in the process than they have been in the past.

Content marketing has emerged as a major force in the digital era. The days of spending months planning a single 30-second television advertisement are becoming relics of the past. Today, marketers must create heaps of content including everything from traditional advertisements to blog posts, online videos, special reports, articles, social media posts, eBooks, white papers, and more. Not only that, these materials are highly interactive, requiring marketers to respond to comments and questions posted by readers.

In addition, analytical tools allow marketers to gauge the response to their materials in real time. Split testing and data from past campaigns are used to fine-tune future content generation efforts. In order to best meet the needs of the target audience and align with corporate goals, marketers must ensure that their efforts are both well-received and effective, and metrics and analytics play a crucial role.

Older outbound marketing techniques often centered around seasonal campaigns. For example, linens and towels and other “white sale” items were traditionally heavily promoted in January while outdoor furniture and grills typically go on sale in the summer months. Meanwhile, while seasons still affect purchases to some extent, marketing cycles aren’t as prominent as they once were – and the consumers largely ignore them. The advent of the DVR means that viewers regularly skip commercials.

At the same time, they use other channels to actively research products and services relevant to them. With outbound marketing, companies used to push what they thought consumers needed at the time; with inbound marketing, consumers seek their own information about products and services that matter to them.

Thus, if your marketing education has not evolved to accommodate the numerous changes that have taken place over the last few years, your marketing techniques may be a little too old-fashioned for today’s consumers. Instead of pushing messages to journalists in an attempt to win their favor and create buzz, consider adopting a modern inbound marketing approach that attracts the right consumers to your marketing materials and then engages, nurtures, and converts them.

Content Marketing – Overcoming Common Challenges

Planning content marketing strategyAt first glance, content marketing sound easy, doesn’t it? After all, how hard is it to write a quick blog post and paste a link to it on Facebook or Twitter? Anyone who has dabbled in content marketing knows the truth: content marketing is challenging.

Some of the more common content marketing challenges can be broken down into just a handful of categories:

  • Generating relevant content
  • Timing content delivery to reach leads at the appropriate time in the buying process
  • Segmenting leads
  • Lack of resources

Generating and Creating Relevant Content
Content marketing requires a clear strategy and an understanding of what your leads are interested in. One of the first steps in any content marketing strategy is to identify several “personas.” This helps you to visualize the people you are targeting and get a deeper understanding of their own challenges, problems, desires, and interests.

Once you know who your personas are and their interests, the key is to focus on publishing optimized inbound resources that both capture their attention and provide useful, relevant information. While you may be full of great ideas for blog posts and targeted web content development, the next challenge involves getting it done. This is where it may make sense to bring in external writers or marketing consultants to create targeted content. Otherwise, other priorities may distract you from creating a continuous stream of relevant content or even finding worthwhile information to share via social networks.

Content Timing / Delivery
What if you have plenty of content available or a few in-house writers who can quickly generate content as needed? The next challenge involves delivering the right content to the right person at the right point in the buying cycle. For example, someone who is just beginning to research widgets may find articles about the benefits of widgets relevant and compelling. Meanwhile, someone further in the buying process already knows about the benefits and may be more interested in learning about the differences between solar-powered widgets, hybrid widgets, and battery-operated widgets. It’s helpful to map out the buying cycle of your products and services and create content that aligns with each major stage.

Creating Content for Segmented Markets
Prospects, leads, and existing customers will be in various stages of the sales funnel, making it important to segment communications based on where they are in the buying process. Not only that, they will be interested in different products and services or match different personas. In order to send the most relevant content possible, it’s vital to segment your prospects, leads, and existing customers as much as possible. For example, your “soccer moms” will have different interests, needs, and communications preferences than CEOs.

Once segmented, you’re back to the content creation and timing challenges mentioned earlier. However, once segmented, it becomes easier to create high quality, relevant content that guides prospects toward a buying decision.

Limited Resources
Finally, one of the biggest challenges of content marketing is this: getting it done with limited resources. For smaller companies, the sales and marketing team may already be stretched thin with little time or money to spare. While you may see the value of launching a content marketing campaign, having limited resources is a legitimate concern that could derail even the best of plans. It’s not uncommon for marketing personnel to find themselves supporting customers more often than expected, especially when marketing is responsible for interacting with customers on social media sites. To overcome this challenge, it’s smart to segment social media responsibilities as well. Train several customer service representatives in the art of providing customer service via social networks and allow your marketing team to focus on strategy and content development.

Lead generation and content marketing are important endeavors. It may be advantageous to work with marketing consultants to ensure that your inbound marketing efforts pay off.

Content Marketing – Maximize Your Content by Repurposing It

Content marketing efficiency requires repurposing contentAs you likely know, creating marketing content is both time-consuming and costly. However, your marketing content doesn’t need to be a one-shot deal, and you do not need to create a new piece of content every single time you want to send out engaging material. Consider repurposing your marketing materials for different marketing segments or uses. Use these strategies to get the most out of your existing content marketing materials.

Turn an Article into a Podcast
If you regularly write and submit articles to article marketing sites, consider creating a podcast version of your articles. Using podcast software is relatively simple, and it allows you to reach an audience that might not visit article marketing websites. You can even post your podcasts on iTunes.

Record Your Speaking Engagements
Whether you’ve been asked to give the commencement address at an Ivy League college or will be speaking briefly at your local chamber of commerce mixer, make sure to record it in both video and audio. From there, you can post online video segments of the speech on YouTube or on your website as well as use it as part of an email campaign. The audio only version could be converted into a podcast just as you would do with an article.

If you typed your speech, consider reformatting it. Depending on the length of the speech and subject matter, you might be able to create a single article, a series of articles, or even a longer piece such as a white paper. If you didn’t type it, have it transcribed and the repurpose it as needed. In fact, it’s often useful to include a transcribed version with your online video.

Repurpose PowerPoint Presentations and Webinars
You’ve spent days preparing a PowerPoint presentation about your products and services, and it was a huge success. Why not reuse it? Post it on SlideShare or use the speaker notes as the basis for a series of blog posts or articles. A single slide could be an interesting email message or Facebook status update.

Webinars often incorporate PowerPoint presentations, but they can serve another purpose. Use the questions and answers section to create a FAQs page for your website.

Reuse Client Testimonials
Whether your client testimonials are video-based or text-based, the words of your clients are powerful. While you may have originally used the client testimonials on your website, you can also use them in case studies, white papers, and brochures. If you have client testimonial videos, you can either transcribe the text for use in your new content marketing materials or you could use a QR code to add an interactive element into printed pieces (thus driving offline prospects to your website).

Reuse White Papers and Case Studies
White papers and case studies aren’t cheap to produce, yet they often contain sections that can be used elsewhere. For example, white papers often outline a problem before moving into the details of your solution. Can you convert that section into a blog post or article? It might need a little tweaking to get the tone right, but the bulk of the work has already been done. Similarly, you could reuse the section about your solution in other marketing materials including in case studies, brochures, and newsletters.

Statistics found within your white papers and case studies can also be converted into “Fact Sheets” or used in blogs and articles.

Share Media Coverage
Was the CEO of the company recently featured in the newspaper, magazine, or television show? Sharing links to media coverage is a great way to share your expertise and build credibility with leads. The same is true of bylined articles that key people in your organization have written and published in trade journals. These communications can also serve as a less aggressive way to touch base with leads.

These are but a few of the many ways to repurpose marketing materials. How will you repurpose yours?

Webinar Content Marketing Tips

webinar in marketing consulting office setting


Thinking about holding a webinar as part of your overall content marketing strategies? Webinars are a terrific tool for getting in front of a large number of interested prospects. However, there’s more involved than launching webinar software and speaking into a microphone on your computer. Use these tips when planning your first webinar.

  • Understand the webinar’s purpose – Many first-time webinar hosts make the mistake of approaching free webinars as platforms to pitch their products and services. While a short pitch near the end is generally acceptable and expected, avoid turning the entire presentation into a sales pitch. Make sure your presentation is useful, informative, and valuable to attendees. Otherwise, they’ll flee and you’ll be speaking to an empty audience.
  • Understand the audience – Who do you want to attend the webinar? What are their needs and problems? How can you help them? For example, if you know that you want to reach technically challenged CEOs, this understanding will drive everything from the title of the webinar and its content to how you advertise it – and more. Using personas is one way to understand and attract prospects.
  • Promote your webinar – Once you understand who you want to reach and what your webinar will cover, it’s vital to spread the word. Use email campaigns, blogs, social media, your website, and your sales team to spread the word.
  • Make every slide count – Whether you’ve carefully scripted the webinar from scratch or are repurposing material from an earlier presentation you’ve held, realize that your audience is paying to participate with their time and/or money. Unlike a live presentation where it would be rude to get up and walk out in the middle of a presentation, Webinar participants can exit the webinar with a click of the mouse button.
  • Encourage interactions – Webinar software often includes chat channels where participants can interact with one another as well as ask questions of you. This is a great way to build camaraderie and maintain momentum. It can also alert you to areas of confusion or interest. If the software doesn’t include such a feature, use Twitter with a hashtag. In fact, using Twitter could expand your reach and arouse curiosity among your participants’ followers.
  • Consider creating a second tier for interested prospects – Your initial webinar should go light on the selling. However, some prospects will be genuinely interested in learning more about your solution. Consider holding a second seminar, or series of seminars, for these prospects. These will likely attract a smaller audience. However, the audience will consist of quality leads who want to learn more about your offer.
  • Don’t do it alone – While technology makes it possible to host a webinar virtually anywhere, make sure you have a support team to handle technical issues, troubleshoot log-in problems, monitor conversations via the chat channel or Twitter hashtag, answer questions, and so on. This way, the entire webinar won’t be interrupted just because one user can’t hear your voice.
  • Archive your webinar – Though your webinar may have initially been a live event, it still has value long after its conclusion. Make sure to post an archived version of all of your webinars on your website or on social sharing sites such as YouTube for future prospects.
  • Repurpose webinar content – In addition to posting a video of your webinar on your website and YouTube, think about how else you might reuse the material discussed. Ideas include creating an eBook or special report based on the material, a series of blog posts, and podcasts. You can also use the questions and answers session for inspiration for future blog posts, articles, reports, and webinars.

When approached correctly, webinars are a fantastic form of content marketing. A single webinar can get you in front of a large audience both during the event and long after.

Content Marketing: Measuring Results

Measuring tape to evaluate content marketing resultsLike other forms of marketing, it’s important to understand how your content marketing efforts are working and where improvements can be made. This means you must actively measure results. Measuring results is an involved process with numerous considerations. Here’s what you need to know.

Set and Understand Goals for Your Content Marketing Campaigns
Each piece of content you create, whether it’s a detailed white paper or a series of social media posts, should have a goal. Not only do goals give your content creators purpose and direction, they give you something to measure. For example, if the goal is to drive sales, you can measure the results of the content marketing campaign by looking at metrics related to sales such as number of leads and conversion rates.

Aligning Performance Metrics to Job Roles
For many marketers, it’s tempting to measure results across the entire campaign. While you certainly need to understand how well your content marketing campaign is working overall, it’s also helpful to understand it from various perspectives including at the content creator, manager, and executive levels.

For example, content creators need metrics that provide them with relevant feedback so that they understand which types of content are working and which ones are not. Metrics such as page views, bounce rates, social media shares, keywords, and visitor demographics help content creators identify popular content and content that should be tweaked or avoided in the future. While managers are interested in popularity, they tend to be more interested in metrics that reveal conversation rates, lead quality, and cost per lead. Executives need an even higher level view focused on customer lifetime value and the bottom line. They don’t care how many eyeballs viewed a blog post; they want to know if the blog’s return on investment makes sense.

Using Analytics Tools
Whether you invest in a content marketing solution that includes detailed analytics and tracking tools or use a free service such as Google Analytics, it’s important to regularly evaluate your content’s performance with analytics and tracking tools. Analytics can tell you where traffic is coming from, which content is most popular, what keywords people use to find your site, and more – but only if you’re willing to look.

Identifying and Leveraging What Works
Content marketing is a huge field with numerous opportunities. While it may be tempting to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, it’s smarter to find out what’s working and do more of that. At the same time, do less of what’s not working. For example, if your blog has a high conversion rate and generates a high return on investment, it makes sense to do more blogging. Similarly, if your article marketing efforts generate traffic but few sales, you may want to do less of that or reevaluate your strategy.

Understanding What Type of Content Appeals to Customers – and When
Customers have different needs depending on where they are in the sales cycle. For example, customers who are just beginning to think about buying a new product or service will need different content than those who are close to making a buying decision. For example, a customer thinking about buying a new kitchen appliance may want to learn about the latest technologies, energy efficiency, and whether rebates are available while a customer who’s ready to buy will be more interested in product-specific content.

Likewise, customers who have made a purchase will need different content such as instruction manuals, tutorials, and tips for getting the most out of their purchase. Content marketing is not necessarily over once the sale has been made. In fact, these same customers can act as champions for your brand by interacting on your blog’s comment pages, posting product reviews, or sharing their experiences on Facebook.

By setting goals, aligning performance with job roles, and using analytics tools, you can identify what’s working and what’s not.

Content Marketing … Tips to Get Started

Content marketing attarcts qualified leads as part of an effective inbound marketing strategyContent marketing is a marketing process that involves communicating with customers and prospects using various forms of content such as articles, videos, white papers, blog posts, and other materials. Though it is a form of marketing, content marketing is a soft-sell. When done correctly, it attracts, engages, and educates customers and prospects all while gently guiding them to a desired action such as forming a favorable opinion of your brand or a buying decision.

Because it’s such a vast undertaking, many would-be content marketers become paralyzed by the prospect of generating massive amounts of content. Others strive for perfection, and thus, nothing is ever distributed. Put these notions out of your mind, and jump in! Below are some tips to get started.

  1. Determine what you want to accomplish with content marketing. Are you simply trying to generate traffic to your website or do you want your content marketing to engage and inform prospects? Who are you trying to reach? Before you generate any content, you absolutely need to know what you want to accomplish, who you are trying to reach, and what you want them to ultimately do.
  2. Identify how your product or service solves problems your prospects have. Once you’ve identified your goals and your audience, consider your prospects’ challenges and how your product or services solve their problems. Your content marketing plan must address their problems and needs and position your company as an authority that can help. Content marketing is not about bragging about how wonderful your product or service is; it’s about helping your prospects.
  3. Choose a platform. It’s tempting to want to do it all – blog, article marketing, newsletters, white papers, videos, email marketing, social media, and so on – but it’s also overwhelming. If you’re just starting out, it’s smart to start with one platform and then build your content marketing strategy from there.
  4. Create a content plan. Once you’ve decided on an initial platform, what type of content should you create? How often? Come up with a plan and create a content calendar. If you’ve decided to start a company blog, create a plan for the next three to six months. Create a list of categories and topics to blog about, leaving some flexibility to keep the blog posts topical. At this point, you don’t need to be overly specific. For example, if your blog is about cars, you could plan on blogging about fuel efficiency topics on Tuesdays, performance tuning on Fridays, and preventative maintenance on Saturdays.
  5. Generate content. Having a plan is one thing, executing it is another. You have several options as far as generating content goes including using existing staff, hiring an agency, using freelance writers, using a video production company, and so on. The choices you make will depend on the level of in-house talent you have (and their availability to contribute), the size of your company, the size of your budget, and other factors. Whether you do create content in-house or use an external source, make sure that one person is assigned to ensure consistency.
  6. Monitor performance and revise your content strategy as needed. Because you know what you want to accomplish (tip one), you can measure the performance of your efforts. For example, if your goal is to increase your website’s conversion rate, monitor relevant metrics to determine if your content marketing is having the desired effect. Keep an eye on which types of content are most and least effective, and revise your content plan as needed.

Finally, once your initial foray into content marketing has proven successful, consider adding a new platform to the mix.