Content is king. Sure, whatever. Water is also wet, but who cares? Every marketer should know that you need content, and good content, but what does your content really amount to if it’s no different from what everyone else is doing?
Some brands publish content sporadically, and some publish every single day. Why does content marketing work for some brands and fall flat for others? You want your content to be the person who everyone at the party talks to because it’s engaging, not because it’s in their face about how “the right insurance package is really about securing your family’s future in case of the worst.”
So how do you strike that balance where your content is remembered, but for the right reasons? Well, by (1) focusing on your readers’ needs, (2) standing out from the competition, and (3) consistently delivering on its value.
Working with branded content is a constant give and take between the two-headed beast that is marketer vs publisher. Creatively speaking, marketers put their first foot forward by figuring out what it is they want to say. Which is fair; a good marketer knows their brand, and they know how to get their audience to also know the brand.
Publishers on the other hand, reside at the other end of the spectrum; they’re all about what readers want to hear. And having this kind of publisher’s mentality is key to a successful content strategy. In short, your branded content should be all about connecting with your audience through meaningful interactions, not through aggressive value propositions and ad campaigns.
If your audience is already visiting your site, or reading what you have to say, chances are they don’t need the big push that comes from seeing a heavily branded message. This is why with branded content, you’re pushing your marketer’s instinct aside — but not completely away — while taking a customer driven view à la publisher. Yes, sometimes your content must be heavier on the branding (with branded storytelling for example), but subtlety is the golden rule, and all of your branded content should avoid directly schilling for your product or service.
Just as your brand (and its products/services) need to stand out from the competition, so does your content. As Nathan Lump pointed out while at his former post as Director of Branded Content for Condé Nast:
Brands should think about what differentiates them, not just from their business competitive set but from their content competitive set.
Essentially, just as your products/services have a unique selling proposition (USP) vis-a-vis your competition, so should your content. In other words, the kind of content you’re producing, and how you go about producing (and syndicating) it should reflect your brand and its USP.
And we’re already seeing this with particularly brand conscious organizations. Take Luxury Retreats, for example, a brand that distinguishes itself from the competition through the quality of its service and prestige of its product offering. When they launched their luxury travel magazine, it was probably because they knew that their old company blog was no longer equipped to meet the realities of modern content marketing. They needed something that was more focused on appealing to the interests and needs of luxury travelers specifically, rather than a platform that simply featured general travel advice/insight, company news, and seasonal promotions. By tailoring their content, in other words, to reflect both their brand and their customer’s unique interests, they’re able to connect with their audience better than ever.
Part of any brand is brand consistency, and if you’re going to be conscious about your content’s own brand and USP, then you have to be ready to commit to delivering that distinct value proposition on a consistent basis. This means developing a kind of editorial calendar and sticking with it so that your audience knows not only what they’re getting from your content, but when they can expect it.
This is why it’s crucial to have an always on mindset vs an episodic one. You can’t produce branded content sporadically or whenever you want; give customers a constant stream of engaging material to check out. This being said, don’t overkill it because otherwise your brand will be just another content spammer that the internet hates. There’s a fine line between being the cool brand whose content is the stuff of water-cooler banter and being the lame eye-roll inducing label of the internet.
Don’t post because you have to, post content because you have something your audience is going to engage positively with. Going back to Luxury Retreat Magazine, they for instance publish once a day, seven days a week, which is enough for them to be consistent in their commitment, but not so much that they’re spamming readers (and customers) with content just for the sake of it.
Branded content is about community. You tell the story about your brand, the feelings and experiences that go with it, and you attract a target audience of like-minded people who share the same values and interests. But establishing who your brand is isn’t enough to sustain your community; you need to craft, foster, and maintain a content footprint that not only lasts with your audience, but also makes them want to come back to you time and time again.
It’s the the final stretch of 2013, and you might be already be thinking about New Year’s resolutions. And if you’re a marketer or an entrepreneur, you’re certainly thinking about how you’re going to do business in 2014 — new markets you’re going to crack in to, new campaigns you’re going to launch, new partnerships you’re going to strike up. In fact, you’ve probably already forgotten about 2013, and have had your eye (almost) exclusively on the future for some weeks now.
Maybe you plan to step up your ecommerce game, maybe you’re going to break 10K followers on Twitter, maybe you’re finally going to rank #1 on Google for “buy acai berry online”. Whatever your goals, no matter how silly or sensible, you’ve probably drawn a roadmap to get there.
The problem with drawing roadmaps, however, is that we often leave out the routes we haven’t travelled. Well, here are 4 roads on the digital marketing landscape that are often overlooked by those who haven’t travelled them before and, depending on where you’re trying to go, can be time-saving short cuts.
With marketers already spending over 25% of their budget on content marketing and 78% of CMOs believing in branded content being the future of marketing, content marketing is poised to blow up (even more) in 2014. And as any content marketer will tell you, just because you build (or create) it, doesn’t mean that they’ll (users) will come. Indeed, with so many marketers investing in content, the competition for users’ attention (and eyeballs) has never been higher.
Not surprisingly, marketers are relying more on more on sponsored social posts to seed their content. From Sponsored Stories on Facebook to Sponsored Tweets, having a social ad budget is as much of a part of a content strategy as the budget you invest in content creation and community outreach/management.
But have you looked beyond the first-tier social networks? Have you considered the markets and audiences that exist beyond your users’/followers’ current social graph? Such as the niche-interest communities that are already extremely active on other social networks?
There are social networks out there that are primarily content driven, meaning that there are entire communities out there already looking for your content; you just have to reach out to them. Specifically, I’m thinking about SumbleUpon and Tumblr.
While SumbleUpon has for years allows marketers to promote their content to users based on interest, Tumblr launched their ad platform just last year. And while these communities might not always represent your target market, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to love your content (provided that it doesn’t suck), and Stumble and Tumbl it all over the web. The social signals generated by these users, moreover, will not only boost your SEO, but help you reach new customers that you might not have reach via Twitter or Facebook.
You know that saying “Fall down seven times, get up eight”? Well, how about applying that to your online ad buys? After all, just because you didn’t make the sale on the first visit, that doesn’t mean that that user still isn’t a targeted, qualified lead. And just because a user purchased once, that doesn’t mean they won’t buy again; in fact, they might be even more likely to buy again.
First, you have the users who abandoned their shopping cart. If they got that far down the conversion funnel but didn’t complete the transaction, there’s a probably a good chance that they were dissuaded by unanticipated shipping costs, so consider retargeting them with ads offering discounted or free shipping.
Then, you have those users who have visited your site, but didn’t make it all the way to check-out before bouncing. In this case, one of two things have happened: (1) these users were targeted users who were still just shopping around for products/services similar to what you offer, or (2) your pricing might have been too high for them. Here, you can retarget your ads at these user to either remind them that you still offer what they’re looking for, or to offer them a discount on the kind of items they viewed on your site.
Finally, you have users who’ve already purchased something from your site. You’ve already won their trust an they’ve already demonstrated a willingness to shop with you. So leverage that trust by retargeting them with ads for similar and/or related products/services, such as accessories to whatever they’ve already purchased.
Through ad retargeting, not only can you win over users who you’ve lost some point along the way (i.e. conversion funnel), but you can also win back users who’ve already shopped with you. In other words, don’t be so quick to give up on a sale just because you didn’t close it the first time around.
If you’re running any kind of ad campaign, whether it’s social or PPC or display, you need to think aboutlanding page optimization. In fact, you’ll probably want to send traffic from different sources to different landing pages, even if each of those landing pages advertise the same value propostition. The reason is that users coming from different sources clicked on ads for different reasons and were in different mindsets when they did so, so what’s going to resonate with them is going to be different.
In fact, this is even more true if you’re retargeted ads. After all, if the user bounced the first time, and you’re going to invest in another click to get them back, then you should probably offer them something other than what turned them off in the first place.
Of course, with landing page optimization comes A/B testing, and the challenge with A/B testing is that it can tie up designer/integrator resources. A cost-effective way of getting around that is by using a tool like Unbounce, “The landing page builder for marketers,” that let’s you “Build, publish, and A/B test landing pages without IT.”
Basically, Unbounce let’s you choose from over 50 different landing page templates that you can then edit and customize through easy-to-use drag-and-drop features. Then you just see which one works better for that ad campaign, isolate what it is that’s making it convert better, and refine and roll it out to similar campaigns.
The point is that if you’re going to diversify your social ad buys and/or be retargeting your ads, you need to provide each of those kinds of users with a user-experience that best suits their expectations. And this is going to require a bit of A/B testing and landing page optimization. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money at the same wall over and over and hoping that it (somehow) sticks, and as Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”
So now that you’ve stepped up your game to drive users to your site through social and ad buys, and are doing everything you can to convert them, you might want to find out exactly what they think about your brand, your site, and your products/services. After all, what better way to find out what your users are thinking than to get it straight from the horse’s mouth?
Now, this might sound a lot easier said than done. But just as there are social platforms that allow you to target by interest, ad platforms that allow you to (re)target based on behaviour, and tools that allow you to customize user-experience based on where they came from, there are tools that can help you collect user feedback and other market data.
For instance, if you’re a marketer, you’ve probably come across that 4Q survey that pops up as a layover when you first visit a site. Well, 4Q is a free survey offered by iPerceptions who also offers a whole bunch of other market research tools that you can upgrade to if you decided that you want to make sense of all the data you collect, conduct some predictive analysis, and turn it into actionable insight.
iPerceptions, of course, has no shortage of competitors, but the point is that there’s an entire set of customer insight tools out there that can help you capture data that goes above and beyond what you can get out of Google Analytics and the ad campaign reporting offered by AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, and the like. After all, it’s one thing to know what your users have already done; but it’s quite another to gain insight into how they think and factor that in to your future marketing campaigns.
Especially in the context of marketing, it’s always advisable to have clear goals and a strategy to take you there — rather than shooting in the dark with random tactics and hoping for the best. When roadmapping that strategy, though, it’s too easy and tempting to stick to the routes we know and avoid those roads that lead off into unfamiliar places.
Those unfamiliar roads, however, can often lead to opportunities, and if you’re going really going to grow your business, you’re going to have leverage new channels to find new sources of revenue. So if your roadmap has already been drawn up to maximize every channel you’re already familiar with, you should start thinking about all the channels that you might’ve overlooked only because you’re unfamiliar with them.
With 2013 coming to an end, a lot of us marketers are turning an eye to mapping out strategies and planning campaigns for the new year. And as Canadians, part of that planning process is often how we’re going to either compete with some of our larger counterparts to the south, or engage a market with ten times as many consumers as we have here in the Peaceable Kingdom.
Well, sometimes it helps when you have some success stories to look to for inspiration, and while planning out my clients’ strategies for continental domination in 2014, I found myself asking “What are some Canadian companies who have really made a splash in their respective industries?” And working in the industry that I do, marketing companies were, naturally, the first to come to mind.
So here’s an overview of five marketing companies who have their roots north of the 49th parallel, but have managed to make their mark the world over. And if their example can’t help inspire you, then maybe their products/services can help you reach your marketing goals in 2014.
So many companies invest in SEO, social media, and content strategy to boost their search engine rankings and overall online brand profile. One of the challenges with each of these areas, however, is measuring their impact and ROI. Indeed, few questions persist:
gShift helps marketers overcome a lot of the challenges associated with both monitoring and reporting on many inbound marketing efforts. The platform can integrate with your Google analytics, and provide you with all your SEO data in one place including rank data from any search engine for any keyword, backlink data, social signals, competitive intelligence and keyword research.
I’ve personally been using gShift for a couple years now and have been nothing short of impressed with its reporting features on ranking and social signals, not to mention a bunch of other features that can help you track site progress. With a variety of different pricing options, moreover, there are packages for everyone fro the one-man-marketing team to a full blown agency.
Well, 4Q is a survey from iPerceptions that they offer for free. But they also offer a whole array of other online market research tools that you can use to makes sense of any 4Q data or any other user-behaviour that you might observe in Google Analytics, but not really have any explanation for.
While I’ve never used 4Q myself, nor have any experience with any of iPerceptions other products, I’ve had several clients that have. And if the way they approach their other marketing activities is any indication, the iPerception tools likely provide some decent value.
If you’ve ever run ad campaigns, then you’ve probably done a lot of conversion optimization and A/B testing. And if you’ve gone through that process, then you know how challenging it can be revise landing pages in a timely and cost-effective manner. Indeed, you often have to involve designers, integrators, and/or other members of your IT team who are usually bogged down with other priorities. And the result can often be that the ROI of your ad campaigns suffers.
Enter Unbounce, a Vancouver-based company that touts itself as “The landing page builder for marketers,” and let’s you “Build, publish, and A/B test landing pages without IT.” How does they do it, exactly? Well, they let you choose from over 50 different landing page templates that you can then edit and customize through easy-to-use drag-and-drop features.
I’m not an ad guy, so my experience with Unbounce is very limited, but in addition to the impressive testimonials they have their site, I’ve had colleagues tell me that they managed to increase conversions 125 times (that “times”, not “percent”) using Unbounce. So if you’re looking at ways to get the most out of your ad campaigns in 2014, you might wanna check out Unbounce.
Okay, so here I should start with a disclosure that I’ve had a client relationship with Acquisio in the past, and while I still blog for them occasionally, I can assure you that we’re now just friends. With that out of the way, let me tell you about what they do and why you might consider them as a solution provider in 2014.
Acquisio is basically a ad management platform and set of tools for marketers who are heavily invested in online media buys. Indeed, the Acquisio ad management solution allows you to simultaneously manage ad campaigns across search, social, and display ad networks, as well as aggregate all your tracking and attribution data from across these networks.
Of course, Acquisio is no little league platform. Rather, it’s designed for marketers who are already managing budgets across several ad networks. If this sounds like you, though, you might want to hit them up for a demo. The folks over there are pretty damn friendly, and I’m sure they’d be able to help you reach some of your online advertising goals.
So far, we’ve taken a loot at SEO, market research, landing page optimization, and ad management. But what about the online marketing channel that is both one of the oldest and largest? I’m talking about email marketing.
Well, CakeMail kind of does for email marketing what Unbounce does for landing page optimization. In other words, CakeMail allows you to (1) either choose from existing templates or create a custom one, (2) manage your contact list, (3) deploy your campaign, and then (4) track performance and get valuable reporting on both delivery and click rates. They even offer a WordPress plugin so you can easily build you email marketing list.
Good tools can’t compensate for good strategy, but they’ll definitely help with good implementation, and strategy is only as good as its execution. And when it comes to aggressive marketing campaigns, good tools can often save you time and money when it comes to management, optimization, and reporting, and the more time you save on the day-to-day, the more profitable your campaigns become.
Of course, if you’re active in any one of these fields and are considering a tool, you should probably shop around, demo a few alternatives, and choose the one that’s best for your needs. After all, just because a tool is made in the same country as your business is based in, that doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. After all, the thing that’s kinda cool about the world wide interwebs is that they’re world wide, and the great thing about cloud-based tools are that they’re in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. It’s still a nice reminder, though, that there’s been a few Canadian-based marketing companies who’ve been able to deploy some world-class tools because of the cloud.
So it’s a little late in the game for me to start telling what you should do (or could’ve done) to get the most out of your ecommerce strategy for the holidays. Thanksgivukkah is a distant memory, and there’s only a dozen or so shopping days left before the presents under the tree day, so you don’t have that much time to start tweaking and optimizing campaigns in any meaningful matter.
Come 2014, though, you’re going to be looking at your ecommerce conversions and starting to think forward to how you’re going to sustain or maximize your their growth in the new year. Well, here’s a few tips and tactics you might’ve not employed over the last year that can give you that extra ecommerce edge in 2014.
Next week will begin another series of Social Media workshops at Ometz, and there are still seats available. Anyone interested can register for individual sessions, or all three at a reduced rate.
Dates: October 3, 10, 17
Time: 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Cost: $275 for the three weeks (or $100 for individual sessions)
The goal of this series is to offer a comprehensive overview of social media tools and proven social marketing strategies and tactics. Attendees will learn how to plan result-focused campaigns using a variety of social channels, including blogs, Facebook, Twitter and others.
Register Now for any or all of the sessions below.
Oct 3: Brand Management & Social Content Strategy
Oct 10: Facebook Marketing Tools
Oct 17: Social Strategies & Best Practices
This is a live blog post from the Acquisio User Summit 2012. Everything that follows is a representation of what the speakers said and not a direct quote. I have tried to remain as accurate as possible, but if you feel like any point has been misrepresented, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Moderator: Diarmid Thomson (DT),
So you’re a social media marketing rockstar. You manage your Facebook Page with style and grace. You have your fingers in all kinds of social media ad formats and you’re really good at optimizing your Page Post Ads on Facebook. And, of course, you know how to measure every social media action out there — from Tweets to Likes to Pins.
But what about your company blog? You know, that thing you used to update regularly before there were Facebook Pages. That section of your site that’s been relegated to sporadic updates of company news.
Where does your blog figure into all of this? Because it should figure front-and-center in your social media strategy, and if it’s doesn’t, it’s time to bring it back into the marketing fold and use it to generate both leads and customer engagement.