Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Content Marketing Lessons from Extreme Sports

It’s said that John Deere is the original content marketer. If that’s true the content marketing concept has been around since 1895. Since that time a lot has change, print is just about dead, and the focus of content marketing is mostly online, with video being a huge driver.  If John Deere started it, who is the current king of content marketing, over 100 years later? What lessons can be learned from today's kings of content marketing? 

I would argue that the brands aligned with the Action Sports Industry have risen to the top. GoPro is lucky enough to have a product that makes every users a content marketer for them. However, If I had to pick one brand, I would argue Red Bull is the best at content marketing. This is a beverage company that is so dedicated to the concept they have a top notch media company in house.

B2B technology is often times boring, so I wanted to dive into the B2C world and pull some good examples of content marketing, and some lessons learned from those leaders. In my opinion some of these brands are leading the content marketing revolution right now.

Lesson 1 - Be original (Video is from "Deeper") – In this film Jeremy Jones brings snowboarding to a new level. By going where no one had ever been before, he was able to get completely original footage. His footage also combined multiple outdoor disciplines (backpacking and mountaineering) which are something many traditional snowboarding/ski films were not doing when this first came out.

Bring it back to B2B – Bring a new perspective to the problems our buyers are facing. You don’t necessarily need to have groundbreaking new technology, but if you come at it from an original perspective your content will rise to the top.

Lesson 2 - Tell a story (Video is from "Strength in Numbers") - In this trailer to a RedBull film they tell a story of mountain biking and what it means to different people.

Bring it back to B2Bstory telling is important – Although labeled Business to Business, it’s still about building relationships and connecting with buyers. The best way to do that is to tell a story. This will also help to humanize your brand so you can make personal and deep connection.

Lesson 3 - Don’t be salesy or product pitchy (Video is "our own way") – One thing you will notice about most of these videos is aside from flashing a brand name at the start of the videos none of them push the products. They focus 100% on making content of value.
Bring it back to B2B – although these videos are mostly for entertainment, they are supported by various brands. When making B2B content keep the content focused on user’s problem, this will capture attention and engagement. Limit the brand and product pitches to maximize impact.

Lesson 4 - Keep it fun (Video is "Riding Giants") – This video is all about the surf lifestyle. Yes there is a story to tell, but they make it fun while telling that story.

Bring it back to B2B – okay so maybe B2B isn’t as fun as surfing, but it doesn’t mean we can’t keep the content we make interesting. We need to humanize our brands and fun content is a great way to do that.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Metrics to Success in Native Advertising and Branding

I recently published a blog posting about Native Advertising, and I wanted to follow that post up with some insights and suggestions on how to measure the effectiveness of your Native or Branding efforts.

To start off this post I want to piggy back on the framework that Avinash Kaushik has laid out in his blog post “See, Think, Do…”

He has very eloquently stated 3 things to keep in mind here:

1 – As buyers consider making a purchase there are different stages they move through.
Often this is called the sales funnel – Avinash calls the stages “See, Think, Do”. In the B2B Technology Marketing world we often call them Awareness (learning there is an IT problem), Consideration (identifying technology solutions to fix the problem), Decision (comparing products to solve the problem).

2 – Experiences, interactions, and buyer expectations at each buy stage are different.
The type of content, not so much medium but the focus of the content (how it addresses the pain points of the user) change based on the stage they are in.

3 – Measurements for effectiveness of each marketing element must change.
It only makes sense, that if the interaction and desired learning’s of a user change as they progress through the buy cycle, our measurements of the impact and effectiveness of this interaction need to change too.  Awareness content has a goal, usually reach. Judging it by its ability to covert sales qualified leads is as Avinash says “like judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree”.

So now that we have established that different stages of the buy cycle need to be judged differently, what metrics matter in Native Advertising or other Branding elements?

Reach (of relevant audience) – As outlined in the Avinash post referenced above, are you reaching all the possible buyers of your product? A TechTarget study shows that influence matters, 70% said brand ads influence their purchase, but they must be contextually relevant. How much reach do you get with your current content plan? How much additional reach can a Native or other Brand campaigns bring?

Dwell Time – How long do you capture the attention of your prospect? How long or how much of the content are they consuming?  Keep in mind long dwell time isn’t always the goal. If you are after content clicks a short dwell time but high click rate will show effective messaging and users clicking onto content that they need to go deeper in their research.

Engagement – This can be measured by users taking the first *action on the ad unit or article.
*Actions - Hover, Click, Scroll, Share, Share Click

Interactions – Includes all actions in the unit, this tracks a level deeper than the first engagement.

Share Rates – Most readers of my blog have a twitter/FB/LinkedIn account, so we are familiar with the idea of sharing interesting stories.  Make sure your content is enabled with social sharing icons and track the share rates. This is good barometer of relevance, interest, impact.

Click Rates – If you have a native advertising campaign how many people click on hyperlinks in the content? How many engage with traditional banners on the page?

Page Views Per Visit – In your native ad campaign how deep are users going into the site it's based on? How many pages are they viewing?

Brand Lift Studies – These are tough but there are 3rd parties out there that can help do brand lift studies and measure the impact of your Native ad campaigns or other brand investments.  They can measure if metrics like Purchase Intent, Recommendation Intent, Associated Brand Values, and others increase as a result of your native or brand efforts.

These measurement metrics above should help you identify impactful ways to monitor the results of your Native or Brand campaigns. How much weight you assign to each differs based on the goals and the setup of your campaign. To bring back the earlier analogy, these metrics can help you judge the fish by its ability to swim.

Still skeptical about Native Advertising and other Branding initiatives – check out this post by Eric Wittlake - The Biggest Missed Opportunity in B2B Lead Generation.

Track the touch points and interactions you have with users as they move through the whole buying cycle. Use a full market mix model to understand the impact of all the engagements users have with your brand. The average IT buyer is viewing 6+ pieces of content as they move through the buy cycle. What impact did each of those 6 have on their short list? Is one of those content engagements more powerful at moving the user from one stage of the buy cycle to the next?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Content Marketing – Don’t be “That Guy”

There is a reason that Used Car Salesmen have a negative perception. They are always selling, and not taking time to understand a potential buyer’s pain points with a goal of truly helping buyers. For example if a middle aged man walks onto the car lot, is he looking for a vehicle to transport the kids, or is he looking to cruise away in a classic Porsche?

The used car salesmen would see how much money I have, and try to push me into whatever he has on the lot that drives. The good salesperson would take the time to figure out what I need out of the car, and work with me on my problems. For example if my pain point is moving the kidos from soccer games, he might talk about storage space for the gear, AC in the back to keep the kids cool after the game, configurable layouts to fit everything, etc.  For the Porsche he might talk about classic models and which should increase in value/how rare they are, or the race history of them. He would relate everything back to me and my problems.  

When you produce content if you are always leading with the sales pitch, your content will be viewed in the same light as the classic used car salesman. To quote a tweet coming out of this years #MozCon – "@Bradley0319 - Didn't expect to learn this at #mozcon English is the only language that capitalizes "I" but not "we", or "us" - very individualistic." Perhaps this is why when viewing content, we don’t care to hear how great you are, we just want to hear how your solution helps MY problem.

To further expand on this: 
I recently heard someone ask the question – “Is it true that the only people making money in social media are those either selling it or teaching others how to use it?” 
If you are using social media to pitch and push products, not help people, the impact and ultimate ROI will be significantly reduced. You need to ask yourself what is the goal of your social presence? 

Sure you can impact sales with social media, but NOT if you are just pitching products. However if you use social to put an ear to the ground, listen to problems, and help people solve their problems you will see an impact. Use it to enable a consultative value based selling position. 

If the  purpose of your content or social strategy is to sell, then you will limit your success. It’s about engaging, gaining a thought leadership position, solving problems, and building relationships. This strategy may require more focus and dedication but it will increase close rates and sales. Don't produce content telling me how great you are, don't be "that guy".

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Social vs. Email - The Final Showdown:

Recently I have seen several conversations regarding which channel, Social vs. Email are better for B2B marketing.  

Yesterday this blog post caught my eye:
This post is supported by an infographic showing the huge rise in social platforms. (I doubt anyone reading this post would be surprised by these growth rates.)
This great post really underscores a big point – today many people rely more on social than email to stay informed.  Personally I find that my RSS (Feedly – which is a great Google Reader replacement) and email newsletter subscriptions are good, but  I rely heavier on Twitter to keep me up to date. The real time and easy to consume (anywhere, anytime) format works well for me. This same concept can be applied to many B2B to buyers.

However on the flip side there have been a few articles recently discussing the success of Email over Social:
The Kissmetrics post - 5 Reasons Email Marketing Crushes Social Media Marketing for B2B
Wired also had a great post Email Is Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online This was based on a study done by Custora.

These in summary discuss that email is better because:
1 – Despite the huge social growth rates - Email still has a larger universe.
This is interesting to me because we hear often how fast Social channels grow but we don’t hear as much about email growth rates. What I would really like to see, would be a comparison of Email and Social accounts created overlaid with abandoned rates and usage rates.  If you can point me to this, please leave a comment!
2 - There are several other good points brought up in these posts but I think the most powerful are the 2 charts in the Wired/Custora study. They show that email as a custom acquisition tool blows Facebook and Twitter away.  They also go a level deeper and show what I think, are the most important metrics yet for this showdown - customer lifetime values! Again email surpasses Facebook and Twitter here.

The wildcard factors:
1 - Social is relatively new (compared to email), and always changing. Email marketing has been around for well over 10 years at this point. Most marketers have strategies that are well defined and optimized in email, yet most marketers are not yet even defined in social, never mind optimized with it. There are new social channels popping up all the time which further complicate this. The early days had MySpace, then Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, just this year Instragram videos and Vine (with countless others in-between). When looking at the metrics mentioned above regarding email trumping social, we need to consider that for many, social strategies are not yet fully developed/optimized.
Part of this concept is proven in the David Meerman Scott post “How long does it take you to respond” and further proof of this is seen in the recent twitter disaster form Bank of America.

It’s clear that for many the social communication strategies are still in their infancy so to expect to get the same return is unrealistic.

2 - Another big wildcard card to consider are the goals you have for each channel. Are the metrics and goals for both Social and Email the same?  Do you expect to see social channels generate leads and pipeline revenue, or build relationships and brand value? This post is a must read for more insights of the different metrics to apply to channels at each stage of the funnel!
As marketers we all want to increase sales and our brand value, but there are many different metrics to view this through. Should the same metrics be applied to social as email?
Social is good to share stories and build relationships with customers as noted in this Eloqua blog. I would argue that social and email marketing should be measured differently.  

So with all that said – The Showdown Winner Is:

Both – sorry if you wanted to see a clear winner here. A converged marketing strategy will truly yield impact and growth. Only choosing one of these will leave you with a strategy that has big holes and missed opportunity.
That said, know your goals for each channel and keep internal expectations clear as to what those channels are used for, and what the KPIs are used to judge performance.

This post wouldn't be complete without mentioning yet again how important it is to offer relevant content. Above all else, no matter the channel, without relevant content it is just noise.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Content Marketing Tips Straight from the IT Buyers

I was recently listening to a panel of IT buyers that included two, senior level IT Managers.  One Manager worked for a Medical organization, and one for a local government branch. During this panel the IT Mangers talked about their IT Buying research process and what types of content they value. 

This might be some of the best content marketing advice you will read, since it’s direct from the very people we are trying to engage with every day.

What Does Not Work:
Chest Thumping - don't tell me you are the best, cheapest, or fastest – there is always a line of others claiming to be these at the same time.

Further discussions from these two IT pros also expanded that Speed and Feed Bragging and ROI Documents as content types require vendors to make assumptions on infrastructure set ups. When every vendor in the space has different specs set up for these tests, there are no apples to apples versions. This just adds noise to the environment.  Additionally the ROI Document types also require knowing their business to a very granular level. Both IT buyers noted that making these assumptions only make vendors lose credibility rather than offer useful, relevant, information.

Make it work – They both agreed that if Pitch is more about problem than solution it's effective - speeds and feeds/ROI come later in the discussion, likely during sales engagements.

My Take – It’s not a true differentiator to be better, cheaper or faster. That’s commoditization. Lead with real features that ease pain points.

Don’t be Clueless – Both buyers agreed the worst thing you can do is be clueless. Asking "how can we help with your IT decisions?" is a terrible start. Take 30 seconds to look at the Buyers organization and make sure you speak to their pain points.

Make it work - This is where a combination of buyer personas, industry targeting, and sales intelligence will make a huge benefit.

What Does Work: Our IT Buyers obviously had no problem sharing what types of content annoy them, but they also shared some insights into what they value in content:

Stay focused on my problems - This is content marketing 101, but as long as we continue to see people not following this rule, I will reiterate it.

Lead with differentiatorsAs noted above this doesn’t include being cheaper, faster, or better. Talk about real features and functions. Tie those back to solving the business problems.

Take it further – use comparison pieces. At the end of the day the buyers are tasked with comparing vendors. Doing this only makes their jobs easier, and it enables you to steer (not control) the conversation into your favor.  Using 3rd parties to do this is an added bonus.

Be Honest – IT Buyers are smart people. If you are not honest about the benefits, as well as your strengths and weaknesses they will see through it. Gain credibility by being honest about weakness. Marketing Experiments has good insights expanding on this.

Don’t forget the “How Statement” – When you create content speaking to the business benefits of your solutions, you must address “how” your products helped the business. Eric Wittlake expands more on this concept in his post where in summary he says their systems work today; you need help them see on all levels how the business will be impacted with your solutions.

Be Humble – Again, as noted above don’t chest thump.  Perhaps Toby Keith said it best in his song – “I want to talk about me”. Picture Toby Keith as the IT buyer and IT vendors are the girl. If Toby Keith is your “buyer”, talk about him. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

6 Rules of Biking Applied to Marketing

Mountain biking is a big passion of mine. This weekend while I was riding, I thought of a few rules of biking/bike racing and was struck by how well those relate back to marketing. I was also thinking about Le Tour De France, and realized that makes this post that much more timely. Here are 6 rules I follow in Biking/Racing that can be carried into our B2B Marketing worlds.

#1 - Ride with people better than you.
If you want to grow and become better at something you need to learn from people that are better than you. When biking, I try to always push myself to the next level by riding with people that are better at specific disciplines. A few years back I bought a new bike, and wanted to hit bigger jumps, faster than I had ever done before. It was scary at first, but I rode with a friend that previously raced downhill competitively, and he encouraged me to push myself and go bigger every time.

Bring it to MarketingMarketing is a HUGE world – No one can be an expert in everything, so find people that have skills in areas you want to grow and share you expertise with them in exchange for their knowledge. Also having people that are going to push you and encourage you to be your best will always help!

(Yes this above picture is me) 

#2 - Don't go around, what you can go over!
When riding mountain bikes part of the fun is obstacles. Sometimes they can appear big and daunting, yet if you stay focused they can be overcome. One thing my downhill racing friend mentioned above says is “don’t go around what you can go over”.  The fastest line is straight down, trying to dodge obstacles will eat time on the clock, and make you lose focus.
Bringing it to marketing – We will come against barriers every day, however we need to understand which ones we can plow through, and which we should go around.

#3 Eat Right!
If you want to perform at your best, you need to eat healthy, and be lean. When you are not riding you need to maintain a general healthy diet, then perhaps most important when riding/racing, continue to consume carbs to keep from bonking (bonking in the bike world is when you reach pure exhaustion)
Bringing it to marketing – Much like carb loading and sustaining energy in biking, we need to feed our marketing funnels. It’s important to use good measurement techniques to stay lean and healthy. It’s always important to keep feeding the funnel, even during the craziness of racing or maybe the marketers version of a race is the end of quarter madness we often see.

#4 - Look where you want to go, not at what you are trying to avoid.
When you get into a very technical section biking it’s easy to look at all the big rocks or trees you don’t want to hit, rather than at the narrow path you want to take. The best way to avoid this is to look way out at your “line” (the path). A common rookie mistake is looking directly in front of your tire, with this you will avoid the short term hazards, but you will lack the line needed to stay on the upright on the bike for the long haul.
Bringing it to marketing - Focus on the goals – have the long term vision in mind and keep your eyes set on it. Don’t be distracted from the bigger goal with all the day to day challenges.

#5 Support teams make a difference
Although many think of biking as an individual sport, in much of racing there are big support teams dedicated to helping. From mechanics, to trainers, coaches, doctors, etc. To win big races support teams are critical. A mechanical issue can put a 1st place rider into DNF (did not finish) faster than anything else.
Bringing it to marketing – utilize and understand who you have for a support team. Do you work with publishers and other partners? Make sure you put them to work for you and maximize the impact they can have on your goals.

#6 Have fun 
If you get to the point that biking isn't fun and is just pure competition you have forgotten the point of it all. Biking is supposed to be an enjoyable activity, don’t train so hard that you don’t look forward to it anymore.
            Bringing it to marketing- Remember work is serious, but it can still be fun. If you don’t like or enjoy you job, then what’s the point?  Let’s have some fun with marketing!

Friday, July 12, 2013

I don’t always produce content, but when I do...

Do you want to have a conversation with prospects about how you understand their pain points and can help them? Or do you want to just shout to the world how great you are?

Only one of these tactics will lead to success in today’s marketing world, and it doesn't involve shouting.

Be thoughtful with content creation.  In every stage of the buy cycle, think about how the prospects point of view is changing.  Talk to prospects about how you can help THEM. Focus more on them, than on how great you are. This will encourage a 2 way dialog and develop a rapport that will lead to better relationships, being a trusted advisor, and ultimately better conversion rates. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tips for impactful Marketing Measurements Part II

I recently wrote a blog post titled “Tips for Impactful Marketing Measurements”.  However this is such a near and dear topic to me, that I don’t think 1 post can cover this topic.  I have recently read 2 articles touching on this, so I wanted to share and expand on them a bit.

The crux of the slideshare is this pyramid

This highlights to me many of the metrics that I see traditional media buyers focused on, yet metrics that should be downplayed compared to their “business changing metrics”.  What I see here as a critical element is proper measurement on forward looking metrics. One of the biggest reasons for the shift to digital from traditional media (besides audience) is the ability to measure.  However, if we are not measuring by the right metrics, we will not see success.

So how do we measure and focus on the right metrics?
As Hubspot has posted lead nurturing is a HUGE key to success. There are many great stats to back this up, from many different sources, but a sample of just two of these are:
  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
There are 28 other good poof points listed in the above Hubspot link, so if you haven’t yet read it, please do!

2: So now that we know that lead nurturing is a MUST.  Marketo has posted this article on “Your Company has Graduated to Marketing Automation– Now What?” 

So what does this all mean? Is a $50 CPL better than a $100 CPL? The truth is asking what the CPL is, is the wrong question to be asking. The right questions and metrics to view are the forward looking metrics like –Respondents to MQLs, MQL to SQL conversion rates, Customers Acquired (not leads), Lifetime value of customers.  Without a full marketing mix attribution model and a lead nurturing strategy the truth and full potential won’t be discovered.

So what metrics are you viewing? Have you established benchmarks on forward looking metrics, or are you still looking back at CPCs and CPLs? 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Guest Blogging

For those of you that are following my blog, I am also blogging now in another location:

I have a new post up, 4 tips to optimizing your webcasts:

Be on the lookout here for more posts in that location as well!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What is the Opportunity Cost?

McKinsey & Company just recently published a great piece “The coming era of ‘on-demand’ marketing”. In this piece they go on to describe the changing mindset of buyers and the need for being able to provide on-demand content simply to users anytime, anywhere, on any device. They even go on to say “marketing is headed toward being on demand—not just always “on,” but also always relevant, responsive to the consumer’s desire for marketing that cuts through the noise with pinpoint delivery.”

For many years now in my career I have been reinforcing with clients the value of being “always on”. However in a recent water cooler conversation (or I should say coffee pot conversation) with a co-worker Sam, he flipped this and asked a great question:

"What is the opportunity cost?"

What is the opportunity cost of not always being “on”? Mind share, Engagement, Opportunity Pipeline, Decrease in thought leadership, Market share, etc. It can be a long list.

It’s clear that IT Buyers expect and demand this always “on” content strategy in today’s market, so what will you lose by not being there?  Let me be clear, if you are not seeing a strong ROI from a marketing effort I am not suggesting you continue with it for the sake of always being “on”. That said, if there is tangible ROI, why would you slow it down, or worse pause it, and cost yourself opportunity?

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Weekend Reading List

Ahhh, summer. Great weather, vacations, delicious seasonal beers, and of course time for reading. As I drive by many schools on my commute I see banners reminding kids and parents about their summer reading lists. This gave me an idea for a new post series – my summer weekend reading picks.  Each week I will highlight some of my favorite reads I have discovered. Below  is my list which is the first in this series:
Over this past weekend I came across 3 articles/posts that really struck me:

  1. Comes from Twitter (@habesh) – “What Top Marketers Do Differently [IBM study]” This includes some highlights from a recent IBM study given to marketers identifying what top marketers do differently. For obvious reasons this will point back to interpreting data in real time and being agile with the big data we collect.  That said, it offers some excellent survey findings into the challenges we face as marketers, and how to solve them. The Key Take Away for me – it’s about understanding your customers and acting fast to changing behaviors all while using a converged marketing strategy.
  2. Second up is another great one from Twitter (@BartDP) “Infographic: Don’t Let Your Content FlatlineThis is a great infographic showcasing just how short our attention spans are. I have had many conversations with clients where I remind them that in today’s world of distractions our attention spans are so short we often times don’t even read a complete 140 character tweet.  This helps back that up, and showcases the need for quick, hard hitting, relevant, and timely content are all keys to success in your content marketing strategy.
  3. The last one comes from the blog – “Gartner’s mind-blowing digital marketing transit map”. To me this is a great visualization tool of just how complex our job as marketers is.  There are so many strategies, tools, tactics, etc. involved in today’s plans that we will never be able to master them all. This shows just how important having trusted partners with specialties is. However another key take away is addressed in the blog post linked here, it’s a must read!

Enjoy, and leave a comment with what great reading you discovered over the weekend, or have listed for this summer!