It's almost December, and you know what that means. It's time for businesses to have their annual discussion about how they can take things to a new level or continue to compete in the next year. Content marketing has to be part of that strategy. In this audio blog, I share some thoughts and insights on what can work in 2018.
Listen to this content hero interview with Kristina Witmer, President of The Witmer Group. Her company helps businesses develop integrated marketing strategies and produce lead generation. She talks about the state of content marketing and how businesses (especially small to mid-size) can finally start developing content strategies.
How do you produce content when there is so much to compete with online? How do marketers adjust to not having as much control? How can a content marketing budget save a company money? Why is it important to think like a consumer? We'll answer these questions and more in today's episode.
I remember when social media really started to gain some traction. More people were using it, and some creative business folks figured out how to use it for their organization. However, there were a lot more people in business that believed social media is for kids, fluff and fun. That's it. It had no value beyond that. I remember a CEO saying, "Twitter is for twerps".
Now it's 2017, and several companies have realized there is value in social media. However, many are still trying to figure out how to make it work. One of the biggest roadblocks is transitioning from many of the traditional marketing and sales approaches to more content-driven/consumer-centric strategies.
As we get closer to 2018, social media/content strategies are no longer something you can brush off or consider later. Just like the days where companies realized they could use social media, today's environment sees companies taking more drastic measures to adapt to the times.
This includes removing the CMO from the organization and turning their marketing departments into customer experience or publishing departments. I've worked for CEOs and managers that didn't take social/content strategies seriously, and I wonder if they've noticed that even big brands like Coke are making changes. (Listen to the audio above to hear more.)
One of the things you can do to help your social media and content efforts is OUTSOURCE some of the workload. I'm here to help!
Keeping with the theme of supporting your social media marketing teams, today's audio blog is about investing in the transformation of a Marketing Department to a PUBLISHING Department. I'll start with an insight that came from my Social Media Marketing Certificate courses. Specifically, I'll touch on a section that featured insights on Taco Bell's Social Media War Room.
I also talk about Richie Kawamoto's effective strategies for getting companies to tell their stories through blogs like these:
What if Your Business Story Became a Movie?
A Brand Story on Social Media Requires a Budget
Richie Kawamoto on Twitter
If you're interested in a Social Media Certificate with Northwestern University, visit Coursera!
If I can help you produce content, just fill out the form below!
Okay, I know it's only July, but I can always get excited about Christmas. I love everything about it, including the holiday movies that appear on TV every December. I'm one of those snobby 80s kids that hasn't watched many black and white movies, but I do love the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street. There's a great scene in that movie that I think can teach modern marketers something very important.
While talking to a parent at Macy's, Santa shares where she can buy a toy for cheaper at another store. When the manager first gets wind of this, he's furious. That is, until he hears from the customer. She goes on to tell him how that one act changed her feelings about the store:
"Listen, I want to congratulate you and Macy's on this wonderful new stunt you're pulling. Imagine sending people to other stores. I don't get it...Imagine a big outfit like Macy's putting the spirit of Christmas ahead of the commercial. It's wonderful. Well, I'll tell ya. I never done much shopping here before, but I'll tell ya one thing. From now on I'm going to be a regular Macy's customer."
Ironically, this came after Kris Kringle was told how to "be a good Santa" by pointing customers to specific products while talking to kids. At that moment, it was all about the sales push at any cost. Little did they know that it wasn't even necessary to make the customer love the brand.
Back then, the writers probably thought it was just a unique twist. Today, it has so much meaning because success in social and content marketing is heavily rooted in trust. Granted, you don't have to suddenly hop on Twitter and tell people to check out your competitors, but you can still offer up some unexpected surprises:
Would that be scary? Why?
Because it might be more than your competition?
Because it might run people off?
You can't think that way. That store manager thought the parent would run off to the other store and never come back. It was scary to him!
Then, it went from scary to rewarding.
The same can happen to you in the real world. Why? This is a consumer-driven digital world, and people go online to search for answers! If you provide them (and the competition doesn't because they're too scared)...YOU become the trusted one. It's not about being expensive. It's about finding answers from a source that's willing to be honest with their audience.
If that store manager was in the parent's shoes, he would want to know where he could buy something for cheaper.
THERE LIES THE PROBLEM.
Marketing hats are pulled so tight on people's heads, they forget what THEY want as customers. Free yourself from that, and you'll put yourself in a better position to become a trusted brand.
You won't even need Santa's help to pull it off.
Don't be afraid of your audience, and don't avoid telling them the truth.
You might read that sentence and ask, "What do you mean?" or "Why would someone be AFRAID of their audience?"
Those are understandable questions, but let me tell you a story to highlight my point.
A few years ago, I picked up a freelance copywriting job, and on the first day I visited the office for a welcome meeting. I don't think it was a dark and stormy night, but let's just say it was. As I was touring the building, we walked past a group of employees that made up the copywriting team.
I couldn't help but ask, "If you have a copywriting team...why do you need freelance copywriters?"
The answer (that might have been given with an Igor-like voice) was - "We just need some FRESH ideas." (Dun, dun, duuuuun!)
After successfully completing some simple projects, I began to realize what that really meant. You see, they were one of these companies that offered people something for FREE online. However, in this case, before you could get it (THUNDER CLAP), you had to enter credit card information. That information was then used to loop you into a subscription service that gave you several online tools. (Reaction)
So, the reason they needed "fresh ideas" was because they gave their copywriting team an impossible task - develop content that would make people more comfortable with sharing credit card information after being told they were getting something for free.
A few days later, I was brought into a creative meeting to give some feedback on their new website design. The preview site showcased pictures of nice looking business people and customer service reps. This was meant to humanize them in a way that would make people comfortable with giving credit card information (after saying something was free). There may or may not have been some maniacal laughing.
It makes me think of My Cousin Vinny when Vinny asks his girlfriend what pants he should wear to go deer hunting. She tells him to pretend he's a deer who's taking a sip of water out of a clear brook. Then, BAM he's been shot and the scene turns totally gruesome. She then asks if at that moment WOULD HE CARE ABOUT WHAT PANTS THE HUNTER WAS WEARING?
I went home and thought it all through. I even did some research and found a blog post about this company that said it couldn't understand why they weren't upfront about their paid services because there was value in them. A post like this could have a reader ask - "What are they hiding?" (Dun, dun, duuuuun)
So, I bravely went back and asked them why they weren't more transparent about having to input card information to pay for these services.
Their answer - Because all of our online ads (PPC, etc) say FREE, and connecting the pay stuff will ruin that or scare them away. So, instead of figuring out a way to effectively communicate everything...they needed copywriters to come up with FRESH ideas on how to sucker the public. They were trying to brainwash creatives into evil lying zombies!!!!! (Reaction)
Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.
So, I went home and wrote/produced a video for them. This video showed that people were still getting something for free, but explained the value of the paid extra features. I also reached back into my on-air fundraising messaging days and developed verbiage that showed the audience just how little they were paying a week for these conveniences.
The company wanted no part of it.
Finally, I told them that their competition would likely take advantage of this by exposing the deception. Despite blowing that warning off, I later saw an advertisement doing that very thing. This commercial made a it a point to tell their audience that they will NEVER ask for credit card information.
What a twist!
Here are some valuable takeaways from this story:
1. What does it say about your organization that your content strategy is focused on fooling your audience? How confident are you in your services if you're afraid of your customer's reaction? Is that the type of company you want to be?
2. You audience is not stupid. They're not going to feel better about getting hit in the face because you wore nice pants to the fight. Customers that search for products and services online do their research, and they're armed with what their peers, friends and relatives say. Plus, user-generated content (like the blogger's commentary about the company) is one of the ways people learn about you.
3. TRUST is an incredibly important factor in generating business online. You are much better off being honest about what you're doing and why you're doing it than trying to hide half the story. In this case, the company still could've offered one thing for free and explained why the add-ons were worthwhile purchases.
Finally, don't send the wrong signal to your talented copywriting team by hiring freelancers that can come up with "fresh" ideas. It's an especially bad practice when you've giving them the impossible task to effectively fool your customer.
If you are having challenges sending the right message to your target audience, I can help. You can email me or contact me HERE.
When someone is about to sit down and write their first blog, it can create headaches. New writers tend to overwhelm themselves with worries about length, likability, reactions and best practices. If you choose to search for advice, you'll find enough to last you for months. At the end of the day...you just want to write something!
Calm down. Breathe. Clear your head.
You can definitely start your blog today. Here are some expert tips to help you break through the anxiety.
Write about what interests you and put your personality into it
Mark Schaefer talked about some of the early lessons he learned in the book Born to Blog. His first attempts to blog taught him one thing - his approach wasn't working. The problem was being a "classically trained" marketer who started out writing posts that focused on a specific marketing message.
After that failed, he just relaxed and wrote about things that were interesting to him. He told marketing stories, used humor and pushed himself to try a number of blog styles. After that, "Instead of me finding my target audience, my target audience found me, " he wrote.
Incorporate "Flair" Into Your Blog Posts
In the most recent episode of The Content Call Podcast, I talked with Sheena White about picking photos for your blog (without worrying about copyright troubles). I described it as FLAIR for your blogs. If you're serious about views, you should follow the advice of Forbes contributors, and write catchy headlines, use visual aides, and embed links. These types of strategies make your blogs a lot more intriguing and engaging.
Use Tools and Strategy to Reduce Time Stress
One big obstacle that prevents people from blogging is time. If you're considering a blog for your business, this could be a huge concern. However, it doesn't have to be a stressful time-hog if you take a planned and practical approach to the content.
First of all, don't convince yourself that your blogs have to be 1,000 word journalistic news-style pieces. They can be short, sweet and valuable. In fact, unlike news posts that can bury the lead, you should get to your main point towards the beginning of your posts.
Two ways you can save time is to focus on a clear blog niche and arm yourself with helpful tools that can help you pick topics.
Speaking of Tools...These Help You With Content Ideas
One of the most common roadblocks for new and seasoned bloggers is coming up with topic ideas. Brainstorming is never a bad thing, but writer's block can quell that storm. Then what do you do? Use the internet to help you! Neil Patel recommends these resources to help younever run out of blog ideas. These ideas are focused on using keywords, hot topics and analytics to help your content strategy.
A key to my success as a content producer and consultant has been my ability to gauge how an audience will likely respond to what they see or hear. If I can help engage your target audience, feel free to email me today!
"That won't work for our company."
"We don't need a content calendar."
"Just post whatever on (Facebook/Twitter) and promote us."
"We know we should develop a content/social strategy. We'll get around to it sometime."
These are some of the responses I have gotten from former bosses when I pleaded with them to develop a social media strategy. Over the years, I've heard colleagues share similar workplace experiences with me. The first and third quotes are the most troubling. One is not true, and the other needs to realize that "sometime" is now or never.
Even though I have experience with social media and content marketing, I recognize that I need to expand my knowledge. So, I've begun the coursework to get a Social Media Marketing Certificate from Northwestern University. I can tell you just in the early days of the program, I've gotten a broader understanding of how the marketing landscape has evolved in recent years.
I've seen insights and stats that clearly show why effective social media strategies are so imperative in today's marketplace. I realized if I didn't know some of this data, those bosses probably didn't know them either. Therefore, it could be one of the key reasons why so many businesses have not embraced social media. This realization began with sessions featuring Professors Randy Hlavac and Judy Ungar Franks. Franks discussed the "chaos" seen in the marketing space today. She pointed out that the media ecosystem has evolved from a Newtonian Machine to more of an Einstein Landscape.
You chose a media that you completely understood in purpose and functionality.
You didn't have to worry about excessive media overlap.
You could put 90 percent of your resources in one media, and go light on the others.
Content was straightforward and predictably sequential. It launched from Point A and traveled directly to Point B. You rarely had to worry about any kind of disruption.
There is media overlap - think about how much of it is seen on a screen.
Now you have to combine media in order to provide the user with more fully engaging experiences.
That same user (or customer) can take your content and continue its journey via another media circuit.
At the center of it all is this - the consumer now CONTROLS the marketplace. As an audience, they are now a recipient and an accelerate of your content. Companies and brands have to recognize this and learn about media/brand management. This is because you can't take old-school traditional marketing strategies and effectively use them in the new media.
In IBM's "Any" Challenge, they highlighted that companies have to be consumer-driven because they control the marketplace. You have to tailor to them and provide them with a consistent experience on all platforms.
One of the most powerful ways the consumer controls the market space is through suggestion. An extremely popular reason why people buy something is due to a friend or family suggestion seen online. Plus, several top search results for the top 25 largest brands come from user-generated content (i.e., blogs about products/brands).
Social media is not just a fun fad. It is a fundamental shift in communication and it's now the number one activity on the web. If that wasn't enough to get attention, this certificate program bombarded me with some amazing statistics like:
The ROI of social media is your business will still EXIST in five years.
Eventually that number is going to go from years to months. By that time, trying to finally embrace social media will be even harder because you'll be so far behind.
The clock is ticking. So, embrace it and learn it.
If you take too long to learn about a platform or strategy, your audience may have already found something new. That's the point - consumers and competitors in the social media realm are going to move on with or without you.
Obviously, I highly recommend getting training through certificate programs like the one I'm taking at Northwestern. Here pretty soon, I'm going to have a better way to explain to companies why they should invest in social media marketing and provide them with an even more effective way to drive it.