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Social Media Marketing: Adding Reddit to the mix

April 8th, 2014 No comments

Social media is almost certainly a part of your marketing mix by this point. Facebook and Twitter are the two overall leaders, and B2B marketers are probably at least looking into how to leverage LinkedIn. Then, there are a host of additional social media platforms such as StumbleUpon, SlideShare, Pinterest, Vine, Quora and many others.

One platform that probably isn’t on most marketers’ radars is Reddit. Marketing tactics on Reddit are not readily obvious, and the platform’s users are not there to be marketed to and don’t welcome any interaction that feels like marketing.

Should you consider Reddit in your social media strategy? If so, how should you approach the platform?

To answer these questions, we reached out to two experts in marketing on Reddit: Brent Csutoras, Social Media Strategist, Kairay Media; and Greg Finn, Internet Marketer, Cypress North.

Here is the result of that discussion.

 

MarketingSherpa: It sounds like a key challenge to marketing on Reddit is the platform’s policies toward that activity. Briefly cover what marketers should know and understand about these policies.

Brent Csutoras: It is very important to first understand that Reddit is not a single community, but rather a platform to either join existing communities or to create your own communities. Each community is made by a Redditor who then can add moderators and who makes the rules for which everyone in the community must follow. It is super important before trying to submit any content to Reddit to understand the moderators and the rules for each Subreddit you intend to submit your content to.

For instance, some Subreddits will not allow certain domains to be submitted to their community, some like “TodayILearned” require content to be at least two months old, and some like “/worldnews” do not allow news about the U.S.

As to the challenge of marketing to an audience who is by nature against the concept of marketing, it definitely takes someone with a long-term goal and general interest in Reddit to balance the line between being a valuable member of the community, while at the same time, trying to submit your own content.

Greg Finn: The biggest question to ask when participating in Reddit is: Are you contributing? That’s essentially what you should be asking yourself before beginning any type of “marketing.” One of the lines in Reddit’s User Agreement is:

“Cluttering Reddit with junk or spam reduces the quality of the Reddit experience.”

Make sure that you are going into the site with the mindset of increasing the quality of content shared. Also, while not blatantly obvious in the user agreement, you should not be too promotional with your content. Reddit moderators will swiftly ban users that only submitting their own content or commenting with their own links. Treat it like a forum and build credibility in a specific Subreddit, add to the community, then start marketing.

 

MS: Beyond the key challenge addressed above, what are some of the unique marketing challenges (and potential advantages) faced when marketing on Reddit over other social media platforms and other digital marketing channels such as email and paid search?

BC: I mentioned earlier, how individuals really need to make sure they understand the rules of each Subreddit they are submitting to in order to have any real chance at long term success.

Another challenge that people might now understand is that Reddit has a lot of anti-spam elements at play on the site. New users to a Subreddit, and in some cases, new domains, can find themselves being auto-filtered or even silent-filtered, where their submissions might show as submitted to them, but are actually hidden from all other users until it becomes approved by a moderator.

Lastly, it is really important to understand Reddits’ voting algorithm, which, to put it simply, values the combination of the first 10 votes the same as the following combination of the next 100 votes, and then 1000 votes, and so on. This means that what happens during the first 10 votes of your submission are super important. Choosing the right Subreddit, knowing what type of content the moderators support, and selecting the best title when submitting are key to making sure your first couple votes are positive.

GF: The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the volatility of the community. There are dozens of unwritten rules that exist and can kill your promotion on arrival if you don’t follow along. If using images, submit with Imgur. Videos? Use YouTube. Follow along with the community, learn the inner workings before giving it a try.

One of the biggest challenges is the sheer competitiveness of Reddit these days. You need quality content, a killer title and a dash of luck to strike it big.

 

MS: What are some actionable tactics or tips for marketers looking to add Reddit to their digital marketing mix?

BC: Start by identifying the Subreddits you really want to participate and submit to, followed by learning what works in the Subreddit, both from the community’s acceptance and support, and from what the moderators are going to approve and support. Make sure to fully understand the rules of the Subreddit prior to submitting any content.

Never submit something that doesn’t fit into a Subreddit. It will almost always get removed, which can result in you having filters applied to your submissions and possible having your account silent banned.

You simply do not win on Reddit with brute force.

Lastly, you have to be a Reddit user first and foremost, to really understand how to be an effective marketer within Reddit.

GF: Far and away, the most valuable tactic is to go niche. Every marketer is looking for the homerun, but you can easily hit .400 while driving the right mix of targeted traffic to your site. Reddit has individual sections called Subreddits that are niche communities around a specific topic. These Subreddits have the most potential as you can get your content in front of a (smaller) group of highly targeted users.

Local business? Look for a local Subreddit near you and scope the scene.

Got a book about parenting? Head to r/parenting.

Manufacture crockpots? Try /r/slowcooking.

There is a Subreddit for everything. Seriously, take a look. Jump into a community that fits your niche and start participating. The numbers won’t be overwhelming, but the quality will.

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Content Marketing: Come in with an idea, leave with a blog post

April 1st, 2014 3 comments

Two previous MarketingSherpa Blog posts, “Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources,” and “Content Marketing: Making use of internal resources,” covered meeting the challenge of infusing the knowledge of your internal experts into your content marketing strategy.

Marketers, particularly in the B2B sphere, are regularly told that there is a wealth of great insight and knowledge to be mined for content within the enterprise walls. The challenge is turning that knowledge into content that can be shared.

The first post in this series looked at the popular tactic of interviewing those internal experts and turning the interview material into blog posts, e-books, podcasts and more. The second post in the series offered lists of tips and ideas from three content marketing sources.

Today’s post provides three interesting approaches to take in meeting this content marketing goal:

  • Thinking like a publisher and developing an editorial process
  • Gaining buy-in at the highest levels to improve the process
  • Implementing an interesting tactic dubbed the “blog closet” can provide a wealth of internal expertise for sharing

Kari Rippetoe, Content Marketing Manager, Marketing Mojo, explained how her team takes a publishing approach to content marketing with an editorial process:

We rely heavily on internal resources to create our content!

I’m the content marketing manager for a digital marketing agency, and we create a variety of content including blog posts, webinars, infographics and guides.

Our staff has expertise in a lot of different areas of digital marketing, and we want to showcase that expertise through our content. In fact, content creation is a big part of our culture here. So, almost the entire staff contributes regular blog posts and periodically present webinars.

When I first joined the company, there was an “editorial” calendar of sorts in place for the blog. In fact, the only real purpose it served was to assign blog post deadlines to each writer. This was done without any real interaction with or input from the writers. In addition, writers would run up against their deadlines with no idea about what they were going to write – resulting in last-minute scrambling to get something written.

So, I implemented the following:

  • Regular editorial meetings with the writers to determine topics in advance, so they have more time to think about what they want to write.
  • True editorial calendar tracking not only due dates, but topics, keywords and special holidays/events to keep in mind.
  • Editorial review process to ensure quality of content.

We’ve seen dramatic improvements in the efficiency of content creation on our blog because of these process changes. There is a lot less stress on the writer and me, as the editor of the blog, to get the content written, reviewed, published and distributed.

 

Brandon Gerson, President of Business Development, Mak & Ger, provided an agency perspective on the importance of making internal content a process that begins from the top down:

This is a challenge that our agency faces on a regular basis while trying to create content for our clients.

Interviews work well, but it is best when they can create their own content.

The challenge is that we are trying to do our job, which requires their help, but they have their own job to do, and thus, by working with us, they are not getting their work done.

Here is the best way we have been able to remedy this …

Take a top-down approach and work with the CMO to make an organizational commitment to generating content.

This helps each department allocate a certain amount of time and employees towards generating content. Ideally, this can be a team effort that can occur on a Friday, when productivity levels are low anyway. A few members of a department can get together and share ideas and turn it into bullet points. We then have a dedicated person email these bullet points to our agency partner, who then works to turn their bullet points into blog posts.

We position this as not only a way to help us create content for their marketing, but also as a camaraderie, brainstorming, team building time where new ideas can formulate.

It can be a hard sell initially, but when it works well, it adds a lot of value to all involved.

We have been able to get one client to commit to this approach with their sales team and it has produced some great content that has helped all of their closing rates. In addition to blog posts, we have been able to create white papers, numbered lists, e-books and other assets that they now use to nurture their prospects further down the funnel and it has worked well for the entire organization.

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Why You Should Thank Your Competitors

March 28th, 2014 No comments

I was at a conference recently and had a very surprising conversation with the person I was sitting next to at lunch.

His company had no competition – and he said it was a bad thing!

 

What happens when you have no competition?

Having worked with a competitive sales office (the team responsible for generating a report explaining why every deal was won or lost) at a previous job, I gained a visceral dislike for the competition.

Much like in sports, we always like to root for the home team and against the rivals even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense.

As a Florida resident, my tax dollars equally flow to the University of Florida and Florida State University. But as an alumnus of UF, it’s hard to cheer for FSU even when the team wins a national championship.

My point is: Competition seems rooted in human nature.

I was surprised when my fellow conference attendee expressed that it was a real challenge not to have competition. Since there was no one else delivering his service, potential customers didn’t view it as category they should consider.

Also, potential customers couldn’t really get competitive bids or issue proposal requests (RFPs).

 

(Another) theory of relativity

There may be another factor at play here. Dan Ariely, who spoke at MarketingSherpa Email Summit, said, “We like to make decisions based on comparisons.”

In his book, Predictably Irrational, Dan gives an example in which if you were shopping for a house and had three choices:

  • A contemporary
  • A colonial
  • A colonial that needs a new roof, but the owner will knock the cost of the roof of the home’s price

According to Dan, people will go with the colonial with the good roof. The contemporary suffers from a lack of competition.

Or, as Dan puts it, “We don’t know much about the contemporary – we don’t have another house to compare it with – so that house goes on the sidelines. But we do know that one of the colonials is better than the other one.”

Decision-making is complex. When we’re making decisions, we usually don’t understand all of the factors that go into it. Yet, we want to feel that we’ve made a logical decision, so we look to the information we have at hand to reassure ourselves.

 

How can we use this information as a marketer?

Some marketers try to avoid the competition and never mention them, especially if they are the market leader. Marketing tradition says that Coke never mentions Pepsi.

However, perhaps you should tell customers more about the competition. You should help them make the best choice between you and the competition and provide them with something to compare your company to.

 

Help your customers make a choice

For example, KAYAK does this with travel pricing:

kayak-comparative-pricing

 

Progressive Insurance very famously does this as well: 

progressive-comparative-pricing

 

This may seem counterintuitive, so think about the brick-and-mortar world for just a moment. Many businesses tend to flock to the same location as their competitors, such as the famed Diamond District in New York City or even car dealership row in almost every city in the U.S.

Customers want choice. They want to make a logical decision and consider their options, or feel like they did at least. Help by giving them options, even when those options come from your competitors.

 

Make sure customers experience a proper comparison

Showing competitive trade-offs is easier in some industries than others. After all, sometimes customers don’t understand what other choices they should compare you product to.

For example, it was rumored that marketers at Best Buy were sad to see Circuit City go out of business. Sure, they dogged competitors. But without Circuit City, would customers now compare Best Buy directly with Amazon.com? While Amazon’s prices are cheaper, is the service the same as a brick-and-mortar store?

The Rodon Group, an American manufacturer of high-volume plastic injection molded parts, faced this challenge. When companies thought of cheap sourcing for small components, they thought of China.

The Rodon Group wanted to change potential customers’ frame of reference and show that it was, in fact, also a low-cost supplier even though it was an American company. The company’s “Cheaper than China” campaign increased sales 33%.

You don’t determine the competition. Your customers do.

But you can help frame customers’ decisions by showing why your product should be compared to another offering.

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Content Marketing: Tips from your peers on making use of internal resources

March 25th, 2014 No comments

A recent MarketingSherpa Blog post, “Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources,” covered one technique for including internal resources in your content marketing. Today’s post features sources who each an array of quick-hit tips on the topic.

Content marketing is major piece of any digital marketing strategy, particularly for B2B marketers. This content – in the form of blog posts, white papers, e-books, infographics, videos, podcasts and more – can be created by the marketing team and can also come from third-party experts.

Utilizing the knowledge of experts, such as developers or engineers, within the enterprise is another resource for content marketing. The challenge is taking advantage of those internal resources.

Simply interviewing those resources is one way to tap into their knowledge, and we covered that tactic in the earlier blog post.

Here are three of your peers in content marketing sharing their lists of tips and ideas to kick start the process of making use of your internal resources.

Tricia Heinrich, Senior Director of Strategic Communications, ON24, explained a number of tactics used at the webcasting technology company:

1. The primary challenge faced when working with internal personnel to develop marketing content is getting needed information from colleagues who are already too busy with their own day-to-day responsibilities. They see the value in marketing, but it is not their primary focus. Overcoming this challenge requires a combination of incentive, persuasion and simplification across all levels and roles.

2. A top-down approach is helpful – if the CEO or CMO mandates that everyone (or certain people) take a more active role in marketing their company and asks to see results, employees will be more accountable and likely to take part.

3. Critical to the success of ON24’s marketing and communications program is customer involvement, and key to recruiting quotable, positive customers is enlisting the assistance of our sales reps.

4. To encourage their participation in the program, we incentivize sales reps by providing a special bonus for customer media interviews, press releases and case studies.

5. Another strategy for successfully involving sales reps in ON24’s marketing and communications program is ON24’s annual customer awards program. Leveraging their relationships, sales reps publicize the program to their customers, recognizing that the program creates good will between ON24 and the customer. The customers who win an award are more likely to participate in the generation of marketing content.

6. To encourage blog posts and bylines by internal contributors, including the executive team, we try to minimize any extra work involved by repurposing content across channels.

7. For example, a presenter in one of our webinars will write a blog post based on his webinar presentation, and the blog post will then be promoted across social channels.

8. Bylined articles are also promoted socially when published – and are often posted on the blog or rewritten for the blog.

9. We also encourage colleagues to write about what they are passionate about. For example, our CEO Sharat Sharan sees the importance of communicating effectively in the workplace and emerging marketing trends. As a result, he has written pieces for The Economist and The Huffington Post on these topics.

 

Jeff Klingberg, President and CEO, Mountain Stream Group, offered tips with a focus on gaining knowledge from engineers:

This topic was discussed at great length in LinkedIn’s B2B Technology Marketing Community.

 

Issue #1Time

Small companies (50 employees) are typically working with a skeleton workforce and everyone is wearing multiple hats. Even larger companies are facing downsized workforces since the “Great Recession.” Finding time in a busy workday to create content while fulfilling the day-to-day responsibilities to satisfy client needs can be challenging, especially in the engineering department.

 

Issue #2. Subject-matter experts

In manufacturing companies, the retirement of engineers has driven them to take a different track in meeting engineering department needs. Many companies are hiring CAD operators (designers) on a contract basis instead of hiring engineers. Therefore, they don’t have a lot of subject-matter experts available to create content.

 

Issue #3. Fear

Engineers, by nature, are not good communicators, so fear sets in when asked to create documents beyond the typical CAD drawing or manuals.

 

Issue #4. What type of content to create

Smaller companies typically don’t have a deep understanding of their customer personas, pain points and what customers’ purchasing influencers and specifiers are looking for in content. Also, you have to define what content is.

For example, 52% of engineers expect a supplier to have downloadable CAD drawings in order to consider doing business with that company, however, only about one-fourth of manufacturers have CAD drawings on their websites. And engineers are looking for 3D models to help them reduce time to market.

I know one company who has taken a novel approach to the 3D model issue. If their current suppliers don’t have 3D models, they have offered to create the 3D models for the supplier in return for product.

Ultimately, content creation is a team effort. Its importance has to start at the chief executive. Marketing personnel have to make it easy for subject-matter experts by providing research on subject and content needs, put questions together to help the SMEs create content or pull together information that Marketing can then [use to] create content.

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Social Media 101: Branding for the PR-impaired marketer

After leaving the world of public relations, I dove head-first into the world of marketing. It didn’t take long for me to realize my skill set as a public relations professional made me a different breed of marketer.

For example, while marketing concentrates on product placement, public relations focuses on building relationships.

Using basic public relations tactics can strengthen your marketing campaigns by reinforcing brand identity, expanding your customer base and creating an integrated customer experience.

To do this, you must master social media and understand how to use it effectively.

For the late adopters, you no longer can afford to ignore social media.

Consider that an Infosys study recently found consumers are 38% more likely to interact with retailers’ Facebook pages than their websites. Smart marketers are creating brand consistency by putting as much thought into their social media campaigns as they do on their websites.

But before you start tweeting and posting updates, keep in mind that all social media was not created equal. Knowing how to use the different platforms is going to give you an edge over your competitors and strengthen your brand identity.

 

Facebook is a place for conversations

Facebook encourages interaction between users. Communication consists of comments, likes and shares. The feedback that you get on this platform creates an interactive conversation with your audience.

When you post content that isn’t generating feedback, you’re not creating conversations. Instead, you’re creating noise and this will make the content you post irrelevant in the eyes of your audience.

If your Facebook page has low interaction, take another look at the value of the content you’re posting and who your audience is. Also, keep demographics in mind to help keep content relevant.

Let’s not forget that in order to have a conversation, you need to respond to the feedback of your audience. The easiest way of doing this is by replying to their comments.

 

Twitter allows you to network

Because Twitter feeds are constantly updated with a mosaic of content ranging from information to entertainment, there’s something for everyone. Tweets are similar to a stream of consciousness.

Start by searching for content that interests you. The search results will include people who use those keywords in their handles and hashtags. Follow, favorite and retweet to start building an audience.

Twitter is a great tool for connecting with people and organizations in an open environment. If you want your tweets to be found by your audience, use strategic hashtags.

If enough people interact with a hashtag, it starts trending and gets displayed on the main Twitter page. Businesses also have the option to pay for promoted tweets.

 

The key to Twitter is personal interaction. It humanizes brands. An excellent example of this is @TacoBell. The sassy account has 1.1 million followers and constantly interacts with fans.

 

Blogs put you in control

The really fantastic aspect about blogs is that you don’t have to pitch your story to the media. By eliminating the middle man, you decide what gets published, when and how.

Because the featured content is your own, you’re in control. But with that control, comes a whole new set of challenges and demands to successfully build an audience of advocates.

A strategic blog should include content that informs, entertains and reinforces your value proposition.

Blogging includes the ability to engage in storytelling. While websites sell products, your blog sells your brand. By brand, I mean the “perception” that your customers have of you.

starbucks-newsroom-page

You can do this by featuring content that personalizes experiences with your product or company. For example, Starbucks uses its blog to publish content ranging from event recaps to letters from CEO Howard Schultz.

Stay relevant by planning out your blog posts and publishing consistently. A blog that is not updated consistently is wasted potential. Followers want to regularly consume information and if you don’t provide it, another blog will.

 

Putting it all together

When Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo rescued a panther cub, it did a fantastic job letting everyone know about it.

tampa-lowry-park-panther

 

The picture the team at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo featured on their Facebook page received 1,313 likes and 137 shares, but they didn’t stop there. They also tweeted a video and posted mini press releases on their website.

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Marketing Management: Are agency creative reviews killing customer response?

March 14th, 2014 No comments

“Practice like you play.”

This truism rang in my ears as I reviewed one of the videos slotted for MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014.

I was reviewing the video on a big screen in a conference room during a meeting as we prepared for Summit, and a key quote in the video was washed out and hard to read.

I realized I had made a mistake by previously reviewing the videos on my own monitor or the crystal clear monitors our A/V team uses.

However, the audience was not going to see the video on an LCD monitor 12 inches from their face. They were going to see it from a giant projector in a cavernous room at the Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas.

 

How do you review agency creative?

This also got me thinking – how many marketers review agency creative the way prospects will receive it?

I’ll give you an example from my own time working at an agency.

When we presented print ads, we blew each ad up as big as possible and mounted it on a black board to really make it pop.

Then, we presented the ad with no distractions in a conference room.

The people reviewing them were marketers for the company, obsessed and excited about every tiny detail of their product.

 

How do potential customers perceive your marketing and advertising?

Of course, potential customers never received the ad this way. The print ad was just one of many in a Wall Street Journal filled with competing ads, screaming headlines and political coverage.

On top of that, the reader was going through the paper on a busy train, or with kids fighting in the background.

No one, except the marketers we presented to, ever saw the oversized ad in a distraction-free environment.

 

How do you grab the attention of someone who doesn’t care?

I’m not picking on agencies here. This also holds true if someone inside your company, like my first example, created the work.

Creatives, marketers, account executives – we want to present our work in the best possible light. So it makes sense that we blow it up and show it on super sharp monitors.

But if you really want your marketing to stick out, break through the clutter and be different from the crowd, here are a few questions you can ask the next time you are presented with creative to review.

1. Did you buy the newspaper or magazine you’re designing ads for? How will the paper quality (glossy vs. newsprint vs. poor-quality newsprint) affect the ad? How does the ad look, at its real size, placed in the publication?

2. I prefer not to see these banner ads in isolation; can I see them on a few of the websites they will be placed on?

3. How will the customer view this website? It may not be on an Internet connection as fast as ours, on a computer as powerful as ours, and it certainly won’t be on a computer as powerful as the ones developers and designers use. How does the website render and load on an older computer with a smaller, lower-resolution screen and with a slow connection?

4. Same goes for any mobile emails or mobile sites: Do customers have the greatest and newest smartphones and tablets? If not, how will sites render and how quickly will they load on slower devices? On 3G?

5. What compatibility issues will exist? How will this website look if they don’t have Flash? How will this email look if images are blocked?

6. If the audience is older, can they read type that small in a brochure, postcard or on a website?

7. Will our TV commercial or online video be able to convey any information if it is muted? Should we leverage more text to make sure it does?

8. This PowerPoint looks good on my screen, but how will it look to an audience of a thousand people? (Hint: Make the text bigger than you think you should, you can see my own error below.)

 

What you see when you review

 

What your audience sees

 

I’d love to hear you share your tips as well. How do you review marketing creative? What do you do to put yourself in the customer’s shoes?

Do you engage in copy testing, campaign pre-testing or other advertising research, or do you approve marketing campaigns based on your own opinion? If so, how do you decide?

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Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources

February 25th, 2014 3 comments

Marketers, particularly B2B marketers, for the last couple of years have been hammered with the message that content is the key that unlocks all other marketing channels. Sharing quality content makes email messages more likely to be opened and clicked through, makes social media more engaging, and when done correctly, promotes both thought leadership and brand awareness.

Of course, to share great content, you need to have great content.

Here are three of the areas where marketers are commonly instructed to mine for content:

  • White papers, blog posts, videos and podcasts created by the marketing team
  • Third-party experts providing written, audio or visual information
  • Internal expert resources within the company, such as engineers or developers, providing that information

The first is obvious, and creating this sort of content is most likely part of the job description for a marketing position. The second involves some legwork in tracking down those external experts in a particular business space or marketplace, but achieving that third-party validation as part of the content marketing strategy is powerful.

That third area – utilizing the knowledge of internal expert resources – is a resource that is often touted, but actually taking advantage of that resource can be easier said than done.

We’ve reached out to a wide range of content marketing sources who do just that and are sharing their tips for taking advantage of internal experts for content marketing with you in a series of MarketingSherpa Blog posts.

Although the tips cover a number of different tactics, for today’s post, the focus is on one of the most popular methods of turning that internal knowledge into sharable content – the interview process.

Maureen Jann, Senior Manager, Marketing, Intrepid Learning, offers several tips (you’ll find more in later blog posts), including one covering the interview process:

The “You’re an Expert Now” Method – We have a ghost writer interview someone based on their expertise and we write the content and send back to the “author” for approval.

 

Erin Cushing, Social Media/Content Manager, inSegment, a Boston-based digital marketing and advertising agency, has this advice:

The vast majority of our clients are in the B2B space, and while they understand the importance of blogging and content marketing, they feel that they are “unqualified” to create content.

One of my main jobs is to identify potential brand ambassadors and formulate strategies to involve them in the content marketing process.

For example, one of my software clients was addressing a severe gap in original content. I worked with the lead support specialist for the company and in a journalist manner “interviewed” him, asking him about the most frequent questions he fielded from clients, what features of his software product were his favorites, and what the clients he spoke with were most interested in when it come to the type of software they sell.

This gold mine of information made for a wealth of blog posts, white papers and data sheets. This is just one example of helping internal resources zero in on essential information and craft useful content.

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Content Marketing: 9 examples of transparent marketing

February 21st, 2014 5 comments

I don’t normally read press releases.

Frankly, most are just spam that I’m constantly trying to remove my email addresses from. However, one recently written by Amanda Presley of MSR Communications caught my eye.

“February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and what better way to pay homage to ‘Honest Abe’ than by looking at all the ways marketers can be more upfront and transparent with customers?”

She went on to discuss how her client, Kentico, viewed content marketing.

“Transparent content marketing: It’s not enough to just sell anymore. You need to inform. [For example, Kentico customer] Corner Bakery makes it easy to get nutrition figures when ordering online.”

So in the spirit of Honest Abe, let’s take a look at a few examples of transparent marketing that Amanda dug up from around the Web, along with key takeaways I provided for each to help you put these lessons into practice.

 

Lesson #1. Customer complaints on social media networks = visible business intelligence

 

Key Takeaway: I feel for Verizon Wireless and other tech companies. Our expectations for always on, always working, always super quick technology must be hard to fulfill. Admittedly, I’m just as impatient and immediately blame the product instead of my own user error.

These complaints, even when unrealistic about technological capabilities, are business intelligence gold. Don’t hide your customer complaints. Do as Verizon Wireless does on its Twitter account – address them very publicly and show how you are using their feedback to improve your product.

We all make mistakes. Most customers are very forgiving if they feel they are being heard and their problems are being considered.

 

Lesson #2. Help customers help themselves

Customers want to eat healthier. 

 

And take care of the environment.

 

Key Takeaway: There are no perfect choices in a free market. Life is a series of tradeoffs.

Help your customers make those tradeoffs to the betterment of themselves by showing the positives and negatives of the different products you offer, as Corner Bakery does with its nutrition calculator, Nike does with its Materials Sustainability Index and Patagonia does with The Footprint Chronicles.

“By being transparent with you, we can invite you into the conversation,” Rick Ridgeway, VP for Environmental Initiatives, Patagonia, told Fast Company’s Simon Mainwaring in an interview.

“Hyper-transparency is a must. It’s not something we should be afraid of; it’s something we welcome,” said Jim Hanna, Environmental Impact Director, Starbucks.

Bonus points when you let customers know why they should buy from a competitor instead of you, when it serves them better.

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Web Optimization: 3 considerations for testing personalized webpage content

January 31st, 2014 No comments

Content personalization is perhaps one of the fastest-growing optimization tools, enabling formerly static websites to segment visitors and deliver a more personalized message to optimize conversion.

With social media providing more data than ever about customers, online marketers can cleverly deliver a message.

Personalized messages are delivered through various audience segments, built according to customer data pulled from the user’s cookie. When a user with a qualifying cookie visits a page, their cookie will trigger the display of a more personalized message.

When effectively designed and utilized, this personalized page may closely match customer motivation, resulting in a higher conversion rate.

Recently, one of our Research Partners, a large mobile network carrier, challenged us with designing a test that would allow them to compare the performance of 10 personalized audience segments against a control.

Our Partner presented the question, “Does a personalized version of our webpage increase the chances of conversion?” Although it sounded like a simple task, we learned that there are many pitfalls when testing multiple personas.

Here are three considerations to keep in mind when designing your test for personalized webpage content.

 

Account for an overlap in personas or prepare for duplicated data

When designing personas for your webpage, it is important to remember there is no one-size-fits-all audience segment. There will inevitably be some overlap because we humans typically don’t fit into one box that defines us.

Our Partner’s test included segments ranging from DIYers, bookworms, the upwardly mobile and gift givers. But what if I am an upwardly mobile individual with a love of books, home repair and gift giving?

Which page will I see, and how will you know?

Another contributor to overlapped personas will be shared devices. It is important to remember we are only capable of evaluating visitors’ cookies, not the visitor personally. If the visitor’s device is shared with others who each fit into vastly different audience segments, we may not be able to accurately segment the visitor into the correct category.

To combat this challenge, we set up our test so our audience segments were mutually exclusive. This meant that only users qualifying for one segment were taken to a treatment, and any user qualifying for multiple segments were taken to the control.

However, this approach will inevitably result in less traffic to each persona. Keep this in mind when selecting the number of segments your test should have.

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Content Marketing: How to serve customers when they shouldn’t buy from you

January 14th, 2014 No comments

You have a great product to sell. So you pour time, creative ability and life’s energy into making sure customers know just how great that product or service is.

But, just between friends now, that product isn’t right for everyone, is it?

If you answer that question honestly, it naturally brings up another question.

 

How do you give your customers what they want even if you don’t have it?

Content marketing is about serving customers, not pushing product. Only once you serve those customers (and build up trust) can it become an effective vehicle for selling. And oh brother, can it ever be effective.

Here are two ideas for serving customers when your product isn’t right for them.

 

Idea #1. Help customers decide not to buy your product

Limited shapes and designs: Because fiberglass pools are built from a mold, the consumer is limited to the shapes and sizes offered by the various fiberglass pool manufacturers.

The above line is from a blog for a company that sells fiberglass pools.

What? Why?

“Fiberglass might be too skinny, but if you’re looking for that size, it can be good for you,” said Marcus Sheridan, Co-owner, River Pools and Spas. “We tell potential customers, ‘You know what, fiberglass might not be for you. And that’s OK, we’re going to figure it out together.’”

The results? The “problems post” garnered 176 comments, 396 inbound links and 43,867 page views. For a small pool company. In Virginia.

You can read more at “Competitive Messaging: Tell your customers what you can’t do.”

 

Idea #2. Help them get what they want

Sometimes customers can’t find what they want from you because it simply doesn’t exist yet.

Since the best marketing messaging is based on how the customer expresses what they want, hopefully you’ve been:

  • Listening in on social media
  • Engaging with customers service
  • Learning from Sales
  • Doing research in relevant target audience-focused newspapers, magazines and websites
  • Testing value proposition expressions using A/B testing

In doing customer research, you will naturally come across these gaps of unfulfilled customer desire.

When you do, it’s a chance to work with product development and business strategy to test your company into new products and services to better serve your customers’ unmet needs.

But sometimes, you simply can’t produce that new product or service.

What to do? Check out this brilliant idea from Eventful, the Best in Show in the E-commerce category in MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014, sponsored by ExactTarget.

Here’s how the event Web service handles an unfulfilled customer desire.

I’ll be the example. I go to Eventful.com to search for a Pearl Jam concert in Jacksonville. But Pearl Jam doesn’t have any concerts planned for Jacksonville (really, Eddie, really?), so I’m greeted with this pop-up that states, “Would you like to be notified when Pearl Jam comes to Jacksonville?”

 

The other option I have if I close the pop-up is:

“Bring Pearl Jam to Jacksonville! Demand it!”

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