How to “un-lop” lopsided marketing

Do you know what the biggest threat to an organisation’s content marketing success is? It’s not the lack of budget or resources. It’s not corporate culture. It’s not even legacy systems.

It’s a little thing called afterthought.

The two faces of marketing

Content marketing is a double sided machine. One side will never reach its full potential without the other to complement it. It is impossible to realise a true return on investment on either one without managing the two in tandem.

Yet, surprisingly many organisations will spend the majority of their budgets developing and refining one of the sides – to the point where its counterpart becomes an expensive afterthought.

So what are these two aspects?

blog_twosidesThe content marketing process is based on a perfect balance between strategy and execution; between engine and fuel; between content and tactics. One is simply not effective without the other.

However, it’s easy to become blinded by the investment into either of these areas. A business that has poured thousands of pounds into a sparkling new website and accompanying CRM system may struggle to justify spending an equal amount on professional content creation to generate customer engagement.

Likewise, another business may have built an impressive library of strategically aligned content – without establishing the necessary systems and platforms for putting that content into the hands of their prospects.

In either scenario, some of the actual investment is wasted.

Merging the two

Regardless of the scale of the marketing plan, addressing this afterthought issue is simple. Incredibly simple. In fact, it’s all about simplicity.

Let’s face it: You don’t want anything to sit between your business objectives and your actual marketing results. So the important thing is to make the connection between the two as clear as possible. And the best way to do this is to build a simple mini workflow of content and execution that starts adding value to the business, as you gradually continue to develop both sides of your machinery.

By starting small you will be able to see the direct correlation between the two – and you won’t need to face the dreaded afterthought!

How to run a smooth marketing machine

Whether you work with a full service agency or manage your activities in-house, it’s critical to take control of this marketing see-saw. Resist the urge to be so dazzled by automation systems that you neglect to also create the messaging which will successfully use those systems to engage with your audience!

Ensure that your contracted agencies can supply the content specialism that your business needs and deserves.

If they can’t, get it elsewhere.
Like here, for example.

How to beat marketing confusion – with content

Feeling confused when it comes to digital marketing? That’s completely understandable. The world of social marketing and online content has developed in such an explosive way in recent years that it’s hard for even seasoned marketing professionals to keep up!

Every month, we hear about new marketing platforms and software that are all designed to transform how we reach our audiences online. The speed of this progress can feel intimidating when you’re starting your marketing journey, but there is one very important thing you should remember.

However good these various new tools and systems are, they will always be just that: tools and systems. They will always sit on the surface of what you do, and that surface will continue to ripple and change.

Don’t even try to learn it all
Even the most successful online marketers out there today don’t claim to know it all. In fact, they are more likely to NOT know it all. Instead of trying to run their business as well as keep a close eye on the world of marketing technology, they hire people to find and implement the best solutions for them. Instead of running themselves into the ground trying to identify the best marketing tactics, they focus on their core business. They design their offering and develop their brand. They create the ocean of content that lives below the tactics.

Get the content right
It’s been said before, but I’ll happily say it again: Your marketing campaigns are only ever as good as your content. You can spend thousands on the latest automation tools, you can have all the clever targeting schemes and the premium memberships on every social platform – but if you don’t have a relevant message, you will be wasting your money.

… and don’t compromise on quality
I often speak to businesses that have a quantity-driven approach to their content marketing strategy. They are focused on publishing as many blogs, social posts, videos, images and informational documents as possible. It becomes a numbers game for them, where they argue that if they push out as much content as they possibly can, they will maximise the number of leads they can get from that content. There is of course some truth to this; it is indeed vital to be present on a number of different channels. However – there is no excuse for compromising on content quality just to populate all your communications platforms.

So how do you create the quality content that your marketing programmes deserve?

  • Check what your audience wants to read/watch
    Spend an hour in the digital shoes of your ideal customer. What content is trending in their field of interest? What articles and papers are being shared the most and what videos are getting the most views? This will give you an indication to the topics and formats that resonate the most with the people you want to reach.
  • Always aim to educate
    You may feel that an infographic or a webinar that doesn’t spell out the specific benefits of your solution is too “weak”. You may be tempted to zoom in your unique selling points and explain how great you are. However, your readers will most likely tune out. They don’t want to hear a sales message until they ask for it!The purpose of your content should be to awaken curiosity, and to provide useful information and guidance to the reader. This is what makes marketing campaigns “sticky”. If you prove yourself useful to your audience, they are more likely to stick around and listen to what you will say next. They will sign up for newsletters, tune into your podcasts and share your content with their peers.
  • Keep a finger on the pulse
    Always aim to stay relevant. If a major breakthrough has occurred in your industry or region, make sure you share your views and comments on it. If you have an analytical paper from a year ago that is no longer up to date with current events, don’t keep distributing it. You may wish to re-issue it with added information, but don’t risk being labelled as not keeping up with the times. (For blogs and news posts, you may even consider “news-jacking” relevant stories from the mainstream media if you have an interesting spin on it.)
  • Sweat the small stuff
    For the educated reader, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to make sense of a sentence laden with grammatical or spelling errors. Not to mention broken hyperlinks or missing references. At best, your reader will piece the content together and continue reading with slightly dampened enthusiasm. At worst, they will close the page and go absorb content somewhere else.
    If you have created a great piece of content, don’t allow the details to let it down. Get it proofed, get it checked and analysed – to make it the brilliant version of itself it deserves to be.

By focusing on getting your content right, you will have already won 90% of the marketing battle. Determining the right platforms and marketing tools to get the content noticed, read and shared is secondary.

So shake off the overwhelm, put on a smile and start creating some awesome content!

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Why content marketing is like a baked potato in a sushi restaurant

Content marketing is an extremely powerful approach to lead generation, brand building and advocacy. So why aren’t more businesses successful at doing it? The simple answer is – in many cases – because their marketing agency isn’t providing what they need.

In a previous life, when I was working as a Marketing Manager in the tech industry, I would often take a transactional approach to buying marketing services. There would be a defined need, most commonly a lead target, and a limited timeframe in which it had to be met. And more importantly, the agency would look to me to provide the materials required, around which to build the campaigns.

This is a very common scenario across the B2B market; the agency simply becomes the delivery point for leads and opportunities.

What if we were to compare this to dining in a restaurant?
A hungry guest (the client) sits down at the table of a restaurant (the agency). The guest is now required to choose from the items specified on the menu. If sitting in a sushi restaurant, they will get a wide range of options for sushi – but they probably won’t be able to add a baked potato. (I’ve tried that one. It’s seriously frowned upon.) The options have been defined by the restaurant, to suit the majority of their customers. If the guest wants something else, they have to bring their own food in a Tupperware dish. (I know, most restaurants wouldn’t allow this. But just bear with the analogy here, OK?)

Now, imagine this. What if the waiter instead would take the guest by the hand, and lead them into the kitchen? What if the customer was allowed to speak with the chef, choosing their own favourite ingredients, seasonings, style and composition, for an epic seven course meal? My guess is that the dinner itself would be a much more satisfying experience – not to mention value for money.

We’ve found a winning recipe for content marketing by helping agencies provide more than the “set menu”. If a customer comes along with lead requirements but not much in terms of quality content, the agency has a choice. They can either build campaigns from the few bits of information available, or they can work with the client to create new content that will support their lead generation for years to come – and become a strategic partner in the process.

What will your agency choose?

 

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The Rise of the Internet Gourmets

Gourmet meal on smartphoneAmong this year’s murmur of New Year’s resolution classics, I discovered a surprising newcomer.

Many people, including yours truly, find the turn of the calendar year to be a comforting reminder of new beginnings and second chances. This inspires us to re-visit our objectives, draft fresh plans and – hopefully – learn from past mistakes. Whatever our ambition, the start of a new year offers a rare opportunity to make a mental break with the past and focus on the blank canvas of time that lies ahead.

This year, apart from the typical health-related resolutions of going to the gym, cycling to work, losing ten pounds etc, many people in my network were talking about how they resolve to spend their time in 2015.

Time is recognised as a precious commodity, yet most of us are guilty of spending it ways that are less than ideal. We want to spend more time with our family and loved ones, we want to dedicate time to doing the things that enrich us and we want to work fewer hours or perhaps improve our output rate so we feel less stressed.

“So what?”, you may think.
“What is so new about this?”

Well, the basic desire to spend more time enjoying life is in itself nothing new. However, one aspect of our lifestyles which is becoming exposed as a major time thief, is the smartphone.

Where once TV used to be recognised as the big culprit in absorbing our time, smartphones have now surpassed it and become the biggest device for consuming media at an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes in 2014 according to Businessweek.com.

The big difference here is that although a time thief, TV can still be enjoyed with other people – whereas smartphones are all about the individual. Your mobile device is a window which nobody else is looking through, only you. This means that as a smartphone user, you can be sitting in the same room as ten other people, but nobody else will be sharing your media experience. The device is not only absorbing your time – it is absorbing other people’s time with you. (Did you ever try to have a conversation with someone who’s playing Candy Crush Saga?)

As a result of the distractional effect that smartphones are having on our modern lives, many people are now resolving to spend less “dead” time on their devices. The discerning smartphone user will choose to not pick up the phone and check Facebook every time they are bored, but instead approach their online experience the way they would a gourmet restaurant. They know their “funds” are limited, so they will carefully consider how they wish to spend them.

If sparking up Facebook every fifteen minutes is the tech equivalent to eating your daily meals at McDonald’s, then the gourmet may choose to replace this with a more nourishing experience such as a TED talk, in-depth article or language course a couple of times a day. The user would not necessarily spend less time on their device, but they would pay more attention to when they use it, how often and what the defined purpose is.

This of course has bearings on the marketing landscape.

It means we as marketers need to pay closer attention to the behavioural patterns of the user, as well as help them achieve the rich, nourishing experience they desire through delivering quality content, responsive and clear messaging in a format which is respectful of the user’s time.

Now – that’s enough talk about resolutions.
Let’s go create some plans to make them happen!