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 … 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.