Monthly Archives: June 2016

Why You Need a B2B Sales Content Strategy

If you sell the way you did 10 years ago, you don’t need a sales content strategy. There’s little strategy required to tell people about your company, products, features — just don’t forget those benefit statements!

But if you’ve truly adopted a customer-centered sales philosophy you know you have new requirements.

The new realities of selling to self-educating, digital era buyers has made having the right content an essential tool for sales professionals. The right content addresses every key buyer decision point throughout the customer engagement process. The importance and complexity of this requirement demands a strategy.

Sales People Need Content To Sell

In B2B sales, especially a complex, considered or value sale, sales people still generate most of their sales “leads.” They develop virtually all sales opportunities.

As it is for marketers, content is essential to capture prospect attention and generate interest. For sales people, tracking prospect content consumption indicates interest, intent and timing. Content is needed to get into more customer conversations.

Digital era buyers want to conduct research to prepare for conversations with vendor reps. In supporting this desire, sales people “earn the right” to a conversation, often ahead of competitors.

The right sales content can eradicate three costly and inefficient selling behaviors:

  1. The four-legged sales call (or more) where subject experts are required to deliver important but complex information
  2. “I’ll have to get back to you on that” — when the above aren’t present
  3. The BIG DEMO — often too early in the sales process, with effectiveness diluted by too many stakeholders and competing agendas. Demo snippets in content that demonstrate important points, in targeted ways, delivered at the right time, and shared with other stakeholders, are a much more effective selling technique.

While conversations are the foundation of professional B2B selling, complex and important information must be supported by content. Content improves conversations that must be shared with other stakeholders. Examples include: explaining and proving the cost of current state business problems (why change), customer education elements (or unlearning as CEB calls it), explaining and proving value.

But using content to sell is a new sales competency.  Sales content strategy must also define the training and support requirements to enable sales reps to execute effectively.

Sales People Aren’t Getting The Content They Need

CSO Insights Effectiveness of Content and Tools

This isn’t just an issue of “findability.” This is about content that’s required but not available when it’s needed. It’s also about existing content that doesn’t adequately meet the selling task.

This research from CSO Insights is among many that highlight important content areas that need improvement. We often find sales organizations aren’t fully aware of their needs until they occur. In this list are the top categories of content reps report need improvement.

Marketing People Don’t Know How To Create Content For Sales

Not all marketing content is effective sales content. Marketing people know how to create marketing content. Most marketers believe the content they create is sufficient for sales people. They believe the problem is lack of awareness and access by sales. This is a debilitating misunderstanding.

Most marketing content addresses the first two buying stages.

This content can be useful to sales people if they have access to all the elements required to effectively use it: emails that link to landing pages that offer situation appropriate content. Seldom is content packaged this way and delivered to sales reps for easy use.

Marketers lack models and specifications to guide sales content development.

Effective content is developed on purpose. This requires a clear understanding of key sales use cases. You must know the purpose or “job” for which sales people and their customers want content at each engagement point. Sales people want to accomplish sales outcomes. Buyers want answers to specific questions. They want information that supports stage specific decisions.

When we initially assess our client’s “buyer journey” maps, we often find they don’t provide the information and insight required to inform useful sales content for each stage or party.

By way of example, here are important yet often missing sales content assets:

  • Conversation starters
  • Questions and problem diagnostic, analysis guidelines
  • Visual support for key conversations (not presentations)
  • Content that supports internal customer conversations when sales people aren’t present
  • Inventory of facts, research results and quotations related to key topics and points
  • Stories
  • Proof points for both business problems and solution approaches
  • Sales presentation versions for key scenarios

Without an appreciation for the context in which sales content will be used, it’s difficult to get the contentS right. Content isn’t properly focused. It doesn’t connect with what occurred previously or comes next. It isn’t in the right form or formats:

  • Text — micro (social posts), short (stories, explanations, examples), long (case studies)
  • Graphic
  • Audio / video
  • Interactive
  • Tool

Effective content is relevant to each situation, purpose and audience. This inevitably requires some degree of tailoring. An example of this is the high use of PowerPoint. Sales people require content they can edit and configure before delivering so it’s relevant to each engagement’s objective. This should apply to most sales content including customer stories, case studies and videos for example.

While content requirements should be reviewed with the sales organization, often sales people aren’t much help proactively defining sales content requirements. They don’t think about or define use cases and detailed content specifications required to create effective content.

Poor Or Missing Content Has An Adverse Business Impact

Top business objectives that are adversely impacted include new customer acquisition, win rates, and sales productivity. Sales productivity and efficiency significantly impacts selling costs.

Despite most company’s limited ability to measure direct impact of content on sales performance, we have third party research and sales people assessments as initial measurement proxies.

“Our research shows poor content cuts the likelihood of a vendor making the shortlist by 30%.” 

Bob Johnson, Analyst at IDG Connect

Content gets sales people in the game: Information-enabled, self-researching buyers create the new reality that “content” is our first product. Content helps us find and get found by interested prospects.

Content is essential for building customer relationship and trust:

CSO Customer-facing Content Impact On Relationship Levels

“Content is the foundation of almost any other sales enablement service.

Overall, there is a significant correlation between the effectiveness of customer-facing content and the level of relationships that can be achieved with customers. 

Content matters. Content in context matters even more. 

Content must become a sales force’s strategic imperative and a number one priority on every sales leader’s agenda.

Highly effective customer-facing content that covers the entire customer’s journey is a must-have ingredient to remain successful in an ever-changing, buyer-driven world.”

Tamara Schenk, CSO Insights 

Easy access to the right content improves sales productivity and efficiency.

Numerous studies indicate B2B sales people spend between 20 and 30% of their time finding and creating content. On average B2B sales people spend 35% of their time in active selling with buyers.

Some content preparation is necessary. But if your sales people are spending time creating original content, rather than configuring existing content, the result is poor, single use content AND lower sales productivity.

The reality is probably worse if your sales people forego content because it doesn’t exist or they can’t find it.

Marketing Realities And Sales Content Strategy

New, digital era realities begin with the “fact” that from our buyer’s perspectives, we’re all selling in a sea of highly commoditized products and services. Even our high value solutions are perceived this way.

Content plays a key role in the strategy of leading companies to use the way they sell to differentiate their sales people, offers and company. Their sales people use content to create value for prospects even before they become a customer.

Content Reasons For Sales Content Strategy

So isn’t this marketing’s responsibility?

Only partially. My cynical response however is, “how’s that working for you?”

This endeavor must be collaborative with marketing. We can no longer even consider, let alone operate marketing and sales as separate, siloed functions.

Content should be created primarily because you have something useful to say and people want to hear. This means you need what CEB in their Challenger Customer book calls “commercial insights.”

Insights involve helping customers see and understand their business in important but different ways. They are differentiating factors. But they aren’t invented by sales people. They are the by-product of a well-developed sales and marketing content strategy.

The post Why You Need a B2B Sales Content Strategy appeared first on Avitage.

Who do B2B Tech Buyers Trust and What This Means for Marketers

By Mike Neumeier, APR, Principal at Arketi Group

Recently we hit a generational milestone – millennials have officially become the largest generational group in America’s workforce. This got us thinking. We wanted to understand how this much-hyped group was impacting B2B enterprise tech purchasing.

We looked around to see if anyone had studied this and found a few interesting reports. A 2014 thinkwithgoogle survey found nearly half of B2B researchers are millennials, up 70 percent from 2012. This was interesting!

Then we found IBM’s To buy or not to buy? research which concluded, “Millennials are having a profound impact on their organizations and the B2B vendors who want to do business with them. As more millennials move into decision making roles at work, or start their own companies where they are in charge, the influence they wield over B2B purchasing will only continue to grow.”

We concurred with IBM, which seamed liked a prudent thing, but we wanted more. We wanted to know how millennials were impacting true B2B technology purchases. You know, enterprise tech costing $10,000 or more.

We found nothing. So, we struck out and conducted our own generational survey.

Who has the “most” power during each stage of the buying cycle?

The result of our efforts is Not Your Father’s Buying Decision: How Three Generations of B2B Technology Buyers Decide What to Purchase. To further validate our findings, we reached out to senior marketers across all generations to share their observations on the B2B tech marketplace.

Our goal was to uncover the differences and similarities between the 262 business technology buyers we surveyed across the three major generational cohorts in today’s workforce—baby boomers, Gen X and millennials.

When it comes to B2B tech purchases, we found millennials take the lead in researching vendors for the short-list and final decision-making power. Baby boomers provide the most input to help decision-makers and Gen X takes a small lead on evaluating solutions on the short-list and selecting the best solution.

Our national survey found 61 percent of millennials describe their role in technology purchases within their organization as decision-maker and 34 percent report having budget and/or final sign-off authority on enterprise technology purchases of $10,000 or more. By comparison, 23 percent of baby boomers and 27 percent of Gen X report the same budget and sign-off authority.

Laurie Hood, WW portfolio marketing leader at IBM Marketing Solutions, points out “Today’s Gen X and millennial is tomorrow’s decision maker and we have to be prepared to market and sell to them on their terms. The real question is do they change, or do we change? Does a job, family, mortgage, etc. change how you are?”

When self-identifying her generation, Hood added “Technically I am a baby boomer. I was born in the last month of the last year that is usually used to define baby boomers, but not sure I really feel like one vs. Gen X.”

We agree the role and characteristic of today’s decision maker is changing. To better understand this evolution, our survey dives deeper to find out what moves B2B technology buyers through the typical buying journey—from evaluating a problem to researching technology options to creating a short list.

Who do they trust?

When evaluating tech purchases of $10,000 or greater, millennials’ most frequently used sources of information include industry analysts (38 percent), vendor face-to-face meetings (36 percent) and vendor websites (33 percent).

A greater number of baby boomers rely on industry analysts (50 percent) as well, followed by colleagues (49 percent) and vendor face-to-face meetings (48 percent).

The top of Gen X’s list includes colleagues and vendor websites (both at 40 percent), and analyst and trade shows (both at 38 percent) when it comes to information sources that most influence enterprise technology buying.

Two interesting trends stood out. First, millennials are less reliant on any one information source then the other two cohorts. Second, it appears face-to-face interactions trump Facebook and all other social media channels when millennials are making major technology business decisions.

“Businesses are quick to assume that technology is the way of the future, and they’re right,” shared Gen X marketer Malinda Wilkinson, CMO at Salesfusion. “But just because today’s key B2B buyers are multitasking with phone in hand doesn’t mean they don’t want a face-to-face chat. Building relationships is still important. Although online marketing is a must, these findings remind us not to completely take the human factor out of the B2B buying process.”

Facebook or face-to-face time?

When examining streams of information consumed at different stages of the buying cycle, the reliance on interpersonal interactions is even more pronounced. At the beginning of a typical B2B buying cycle, when seeking to understand and explore a possible business problem, all generations trust industry analysts as their top go-to source.

“You’ve got to have a toolbox full of tools and know when to use what,” explains Gen Xer Lee Kallman, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Retail Data LLC. “No doubt, technology can oftentimes create a better experience for learning about a new product or service, but nothing beats face-to-face for building and nurturing a relationship.”

Focusing on just millennials, let’s take a look at the sources used at each stage of the tech buying cycle.

  • During the first stage of the B2B buying cycle, millennials most often seek information from industry analysts and colleagues in their organization (29 percent each) followed by case studies and customer testimonials (24 percent).
  • As a buyer moves from identifying the problem to researching available technology solutions, the data shows millennials seek increasingly more interpersonal interactions. In this phase, a plurality of millennials turns to colleagues (26 percent) and vendor face-to-face meetings (25 percent) for information.
  • During the final phase of a B2B buying process, the creation of a shortlist from which decisions will be made, millennials rely on face-to-face vendor meetings (24 percent), colleagues (23 percent), and live or in-person demos (21 percent).

Millennials were much less reliant on social media than conventional wisdom might predict. In fact, social channels fail to break into double-digits as an information source for any stage of the B2B buying cycle.

To explain the reliance on in-person interactions, millennial Tami McQueen, director of marketing at SalesLoft, says “Interpersonal interactions highlight the affinity for authentic communication among millennials and in turn facilitate the acceleration of the buying cycle. Our generation is stewards of influence and just as we seek to gain the stamp of approval from our trusted networks – whether for a product or service – we look to impart ours on theirs too.”

While this research draws out some subtle, but important differentiations between the three groups, it really drives home that millennials, although digital natives, desire and require personal interactions when faced with an important business technology purchase decision.

What about Gen X and baby boomers?

Simon Boardman, vice president of marketing at Eagle Creek Software Services, shared “Our buyers congregate in trades shows, conferences and peer organizations. All three groups in the survey score highly on this, perhaps surprisingly in this ‘virtual’ era. This is in part a reaction to a serial betrayal of trust over the past 20 years.”

He further points out the following reasons marketers participate in their congregated events:

  • To better assess trustworthiness in response to this era of the “betrayal of trust”
  • In affirmation of the social nature of human beings in an era of digitalization
  • For information and experience sharing

Boardman added, “It’s interesting to digest the data in the survey regarding these types of activities across the three demographic groups and notice that the physical types of activities seem high in all three, but highest in Gen X. Does this mean that generation has felt the most betrayed and therefore finds trust hard to come by? This appears to tail off in millennials and if so, does this mean they are more trusting?”

Event and roadshows have been phenomenal in helping the sales team at Terminus close business and grow their brand according to Gen Xer Sangram Vajre, co-Founder and CMO at Terminus.

“Events are a huge part of a successful B2B marketing and sales strategy,” says Vajre. “You have to connect with your prospects and customers on their own terms. This means meeting them on their own turf, not only at industry conferences and tradeshows, but also by hosting your own events in major cities. We recognized the importance of events, which is why we launched the #FlipMyFunnel roadshow to raise awareness for account-based marketing in a vendor-agnostic way.”

Erika Jolly Brookes, CMO at Springbot shared, “Given today’s hyper-connected consumer, we have seen that appreciating the importance of omni-channel marketing strategy and technology is not generationally specific or limited. However, we do see that Millennials are very clear about ‘how’ to implement digital content, creative and technology whether its shoppable Instagram, a new product video YouTube, email including behavioral triggered emails and/or leveraging a CRM list to target ads. By and large, Gen X and older generations are comfortable with email as an outbound marketing tool, but Millennials have a digital native ability (url shorteners, uploading a list using hash format, et al) that is crucial to achieve the end result. Together, it creates a powerful combination for evaluating and purchasing technology.”

What do the differentiators mean?

While there are similarities across the generations when it comes to source preferences, it is clear marketers must keep in mind the generational differences when marketing. A persona-based marketing strategy isn’t for everyone, but developing marketing personas has been proven to better engage buyers and generate leads.

Marketers need to take into account what buyers really care about according to millennial Mousa Ackall, director of marketing at Work Market. “The emotional and psychological motivators—key components in a properly crafted marketing and selling initiative—of different generations require marketers invest time to fully understand their target persona and what matters to them,” Ackall continued.

Specifically when marketing and selling to millennials, Deborah Fisher, vice president of global marketing at NanoLumens identifies herself as “barely a boomer” and shared one of the differentiators between millennials, Gen X and baby boomers is brand loyalty. “Boomers aren’t terribly brand loyal and are value buyers. They also aren’t digital natives which gives them pause when feeling followed, and Boomers enjoy face to face purchases.”

“Our marketing [at IBM Marketing Solutions] is focused on thought leadership and solving business issues which are the same regardless of age and experience,” shared Hood. “With millennials and Gen X, you do see a greater comfort in leveraging technology for research, social media influence, and reaching out to peers in a different way. But in the end, you are still selling to everyone across all buying groups and have to have your bases covered.”

How are B2B marketers responding?

While it’s easy to use a batch and blast approach when marketing to prospects, it’s far from effective. In addition to using demographics and personas to segment prospects, savvy marketers are also developing generation-based sales and marketing campaigns. Here’s how a few marketers are targeting the growing millennial segment.  

Kait Vinson, director of corporate marketing at HighJump, understands there are generational nuances. Vinson and her team are taking steps to target these audiences differently.

“Millennials are a quickly growing segment that we must cater to,” says Vinson. “We launched an initiative focused specifically on the binge-style of learning and content consumption that we dubbed ‘SupplyChainX – Raise your supply chain game’ to help millennials relate to and bring awareness to the complex world of supply chain.”

“Millenials are increasingly engaged with Izenda as prospects,” shares Lee Nagel, vice president of marketing at Izenda. “They expect more extensive trials and demos of our embedded BI and analytics software during the buying cycle, exploring firsthand the impact it will have on their user base.”

“As part of a comprehensive marketing mix, organizations should include generational considerations in their buyer’s journey modeling,” says Gabe Romero, ‎director of marketing and demand generation at Accenture. “This allows an organization to have data that shows how and when Millennials are responding and reacting to your message or if they are engaging at all.

Romero added, “The idea of a standard marketing persona is fading. It’s now about the individual. Selling to baby boomers has traditionally been very linear. Selling to millennials is unpredictable. It’s not simply a digital interaction, but rather a shared interaction.”

“The role of millennials is driving business relocation and expansion decisions,” says Gen Xer Jennifer Zeller, manager of engineering, research and creative services for community and economic development at SelectGeorgia by Georgia Power. “We have seen major, well-known names locate in areas rich with millennials since it aligns with their goal of innovation and embracing social media in their advertising and marketing. We have also seen companies relocate to areas within the metro Atlanta area, such as Midtown, to take advantage of the millennial population as a key strategy to talent retention.”

The future of B2B Marketing

While marketers across all generations incorporate mobile and social tools in their daily routine, reliance on social media played a surprisingly small role in the B2B tech decision-making process. Instead, face-to-face interactions were the preferred method. This suggests that developing personal connections through in-person meetings is still the most effective sales and marketing strategy.

Using what we call “surround selling” techniques – like influencing third-party experts, colleagues, and the prospective buyer – is important. In fact, all generations rely on input from analysts and internal colleagues. At the same time, marketers can’t neglect their online presence. During the buying process, all respondents wanted face-to-face meetings with vendors, then they turn to vendor websites for content followed by case studies and customer testimonials.

This goes to show that B2B marketers across the three generations are similar, yet different in their approach and influence on B2B tech purchases. These differences allow marketers to select the right communications tool for each stage of the buying process. And marketers who are able to construct tight target audiences will be a step ahead.

Identifying prospects through persona and demographic research provides marketers the insights they need to build generational-specific campaigns. Marketers who aren’t ready to launch campaigns targeting generations must, at the minimum, practice generational sensitivity.

About Mike Neumeier

Mike Neumeier, APR is principal and co-founder of Arketi Group – an agency focused on B2B companies that either build innovative technology, or use it to create new business models. Find him on Twitter at @arketi and reach him at mneumeier@arketi.com.

A Guide to Creating Content in the Best Formats For Your Audience

There are so many formats to consider when deciding how to present information to your audience. First and foremost there is what you’re capable of. If you can’t make video content because you don’t have the tools, well then that answers that question!

If you are in the fortunate position where you do have more than one tool available, that opens up an entire different can of worms. What does your audience prefer? Do they like blogs, newsletters, white papers or pod casts? Are they used to you vloging, tweeting or creating magazine articles? Have you considered what type of content you present in what ways?

It all matters, you know. Different content forms work better with different kinds of marketing, while also generating different expectations. If what you’re doing doesn’t match, that could negatively impact what you’re doing. And obviously that’s not what you’re after.

For example, if you’re writing up blog posts, newsletters and magazine article you’re expected to keep to a schedule. There needs to be a certain consistency. On the other hand, this isn’t necessarily true of games, books or apps that you release.

Let’s look at some ways that you can find better formats for your content.

Do different demographics have different expectations?

You’ll be happy to know the answer is ‘no’. In general both young and old prefer the same type of media so you don’t have to worry about that as well! Marketingland presented data last year that suggests Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers all consume the same type of content the most.

These were:

  1. Blog articles
  2. Images
  3. Comments
  4. eBooks

They were also least likely to consume white papers. So if you aren’t using the first four and you are publishing lots of white papers, it might be time to reconsider that strategy.

Of course, we’re only speaking in general here, your specific audience might be entirely different. To get a better idea of what they like turn to:

Your competition

This is probably one of the best places to start – particularly when you’re just starting out. Look to your competitors and figure out what they’re doing and what is getting the most traction (as most people now very considerately publish how many shares and likes they get on their content that’s relatively easy to figure out).

As long as you take into consideration the quality of the material, you’ll be in a great position to figure out what kind of format you should pursue. Is it mainly text-based or are they using some amazing visuals?

Though obviously you’re not planning to copy what they’re doing directly – as then there is no way to differentiate your own brand from theirs, besides how can you beat them if you’re the same? – copying what they’re doing in terms of formatting wholesale is an entirely different matter.

What’s more, once you’ve run a few months of content marketing you can turn to:

Google Analytics

This will start to give you a good idea of what content and format on your site is doing exceptionally well. Note, that here you’re not just interested in overall viewing numbers, as that doesn’t allow you to disentangle the quality of your post from the format you presented it in.

To do that, make sure you look which format has more legs (as in keeps drawing an audience for the longest), how long they spent on the different pages, and the bounce rate, as each of these can give you some kind of clue as to what people like. Longer legged content is obviously more interesting to your audience while a high bounce rate is indicative that they might not like this format as much as you might have hoped.

Also, be sure to aggregating over different posts by grouping different formats as well as different posts types together and comparing these against each other. This will then give you rough estimates of what is doing better.

With that information, you can then.

Reformat posts that did well

If you presented information in one post that did exceptionally well, don’t be afraid to repurpose it and present it in a different format. This will work even better if you happen to have slightly updated information.

In this way you’ll be in a much better position to separate content from format, as the content is similar (even if rehashed) and therefore the difference is more likely down to the format. So if you see a slight drop in interest, it’s probably down to repetition, while if you see an increase in interest in the second post, then that format suits your audience exceptionally well.

So, for example, if you had a good blog post that attracted a lot of attention, consider creating a infograph and presenting that. Alternatively, if you’ve presented a lot of statistics or images, consider presenting it in a slide deck.

Repurposing your data in this way will allow you to explore whether a different format works better for your audience, while also allowing you to repurpose old content and keep it coming back (thereby having more time to create killer new content).

The good old two birds with one stone situation.

Experiment, observe and ask

From there can try out presenting new posts in the format that has done well to see if the first time was a fluke or if the pattern holds, while all the while making certain that you track the data in google analytics religiously.

As noise has a tendency to cancel itself out over time, the more different posts you have in different formats, the more likely it becomes that the difference in visitor numbers between the different format types are down to the actual format type.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask people how much they liked a post. If you ask them to give you a 5-star rating at the end of an article (tell them feedback is the key to perfect content as then you can understand what they want) and you’ll get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Besides, people like it when websites they visit regularly ask them for their opinion, so it might even make it more likely that they’ll come back.

And that’s a nice little bonus, don’t you think?

B2B Business Blogging Tips: How to Generate More Leads and Sales Opportunities

86% of customers say they would engage with vendors if they provided insights or knowledge about their industry, according to a LinkedIn survey. Blogging is an excellent selling strategy and platform to provide these insights.

You are in charge of your personal brand and your sales success. You don’t have to be an expert content marketer. You don’t have to be a social selling savant. You just have to take ownership and find a way to connect with your customer on their terms.

In the age of content marketing, blogging has fast become one of the most effective ways to market your brand. It’s simple, cost-efficient, and a nicer way to drive traffic to your website than traditional interruptive marketing tactics like email blasting. Some B2B companies still haven’t adopted blogging as a business function despite its obvious benefits. Opting out of the blogging phenomenon makes a business seem like they don’t want to build a relationship with their customer, and in this day and age, that’s just shortsighted.

Why You Should Blog for Your Business

Blogging can help you generate leads. The content that you publish on your site can bring in new visitors (and potential customers) as they search for information relevant to the products and services that your company has to offer. It can also build a community and foster engagement, especially when you publish fresh and relevant content on a regular basis.

What’s more, blogging can help you position yourself as an industry expert. When you consistently publish articles about the latest industry trends, visitors will begin to perceive your site as a great source of insight. Sharing valuable information is a great way to get customers to trust your brand, and blogging is the perfect platform for you to do exactly that.

Whether you’re just about to start your first B2B blog post, or you already have a blog up and running on your website, here are some B2B blogging best practices and tips to help you build a strong online presence:

Know Your Goals

Before you start drafting a new article for your blog, determine what your goal is for this particular post. Is it to attract new visitors? Is it to generate business leads? Or is it to subtly inform your readers about the updates to your products and services? Having a goal to start with will give your posts more direction, making it easier to determine the steps you need to take to reach your goal.

Know Your Audience

Determine, who your audience is, and why you are writing for them. Keep in mind that visitors may read your blog for a variety of reasons. It may be to research a topic they barely know about, or it may be due to their need to address an immediate problem or concern. The more you know about your audience, the more personal and relevant your content will be.

Create Sales-Focused Content

Where do you find blogging ideas if you are a sales representative? Just look in your email inbox or your most recent customer conversations. TMG Custom Media reports 78% of consumers believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships. A sales representative-generated blog post is a great step toward generating custom content. Consider these five sources of content marketing for your social selling strategy:

1. Questions your clients are asking. Have you been asked the same question again and again by your customers and prospects? For example, “Why is cloud computing important to a non-profit company?” When a question is asked more than three times, it’s time to write a blog post to answer it – backing it up with personal experience and research. This content destination can become your 24-7 relationship builder. TIP: Make a list of the 10 most popular questions you receive from customers and write ten 300-500 word posts to answer them.

2. Questions your clients should be asking. Many customers don’t know what they don’t know. When you can present the questions they should be asking, then you have a consultative approach and are out to help them vs. just sell to them. This approach will hep position you as a solver vs. a seller. Pass on this type of blog content before you meet a client, or follow up for when you leave the appointment. TIP: Make a list of questions that support the benefit statements for the products or services you sell.

“Don’t get me wrong, sharing content is a great thing. When you begin social selling, it’s one of the first things you’ll want to do to stand out,” says Amar Sheth on the Sales for Life blog. “But at some point you must create your own content. The power of your own thoughts on a subject matter are vital to your building a personal brand. In my mind, these two are inseparable.”

3. Current industry research customers should consider. Read your email, review your Feedly feeds, or pull a statistic from the Wall Street Journal and develop 300-word blog post on why this statistic is important to your client or their industry. When you leverage secondary research, you build your credibility through explaining why someone else’s statistics is relevant to your customer. TIP: A 300-word post takes no more effort than a well-crafted email.

4. Current trends in the industry or category. Current trends are always a great conversation starter, and many times customer are not paying attention to them or keeping up with them. Take the time to understand the current trends, identified in trade publications or via thought leaders, to map them to the needs of your customers. TIP: Create a Twitter list of thought leaders or trade publications to quickly follow real-time trends.

5. Explaining complex issues in an easy-to-understand way. Explaining a complex issue, like cloud or big data, with a story or an easy-to-understand way is a gift that can keep on giving for you. If you take the complex and make it consumable with a simple blog post, then you can become a go-to resource which will move you into the circle of trust. TIP: Explain your POV to your significant other, your kids or your grandmother to see if THEY understand it. If they do, then write it down.

These five buckets are only a starting point. Writing content mapped to each of these buckets not only helps you help the customer but also trains you to be a master of your craft. Working on clearly articulating your POV and expertise will elevate you to a social selling winners circle.

Think Before You Post

Remember that your blog serves as an extension of your company’s values and morals. Thus, your content should reflect your company’s values. If your business values education and professionalism, make your posts more polished and formal. On the other hand, if your brand values entertainment, make your posts amusing and fun to read.

Optimize, Optimize, Optimize

Make your blog more searchable by keeping it SEO-friendly. Optimize keywords that are likely to be used by visitors when they’re searching for information related to your offerings. Integrate your blog with a writing platform like WordPress. Unless you’re a keen developer, these platforms will make your articles much more easy for search engines to find and index.

Make Subscribing Worthwhile

Your blog subscribers are potentially probably going to be your best source for generating highly targeted leads. Blog subscribers already love your content, so provide them with exclusive bits of content to help guide them further down your sales funnel.

Key Learnings

Be aware of any blogging mistakes that you might commit (or are currently committing). Your blog may exist to help you increase sales, but having a strictly sales-oriented content can put readers off instead of attracting and enticing them. Remember, people read articles because they want to be informed and educated, not necessarily because they want to make a direct purchase.

Don’t forget to promote your blog too. Social media, article directories, and online publishing platforms are your friends when it comes to reaching out to targeted communities.

Maintaining a successful business blog is never easy, but with these tips in mind, it’ll be smooth sailing.

Proof That CEOs Will No Longer Accept Marketing That Doesn’t Work

Brand advertising as we know it will completely disappear, according to Gabe Leydon, CEO of Machine Zone, one of the world’s largest gaming companies.

And what’s killing it? Marketers, agencies, and publishers who can’t prove that their marketing investments work.

CMOs always tell me that their biggest challenge is proving the ROI of their Marketing investments. So I was really intrigued by this video interview from a CEO compelling marketers to take a performance-based marketing approach.

There is a reason the interview is described as a video of a CEO who “freaks out a room full of Media execs” at the Re:Code/Media conference earlier this year.

If you watch the whole thing, you can tell from the questions and the audience reaction, that this was not what advertisers, agencies, and media companies wanted to hear. But don’t worry, you don’t have to watch it (although you should.) I’m gonna break down the key points here.

Never heard of Machine Zone or their CEO, Gabe Leydon? He’s the one responsible for all those Mobile Strike ads featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Game of War ads with Kate Upton. And he is one of the largest media buyers in the world.

You might be wondering, if he doesn’t believe in ads, then why is his company spending millions of dollars every year on TV commercials?

Why Advertise At All?

Just like many other brands, Machine Zone wants to grow its business internationally. Leydon says their goal is to build a game that the whole world can play at the same time, and to do so it would need to market to the entire world so everyone is aware of their game and can play at the same time.

This sounds like the traditional “reach and frequency” argument you’ve heard from many ad execs for years. But he argues that he employs the world’s best engineers to create an amazing product experience. To him, the media is just an extension of his focus on creating desirable brand experiences.

And that is why he doesn’t recommend television to any brands unless they have an amazing product and who have already maximized their spending and measured the results first on digital.

To Leydon, television is overpriced and no one is really watching the commercials anyway. The problem for many buyers though, is that they don’t know this because they are not tracking it.

According to Leydon, “CEOs and boards will no longer accept marketing that isn’t driving real business results.”

Leydon says Machine Zone advertises so much on television because of the social power it has. Television creates a halo effect. “You’re not a brand until you go on television,” he adds.

But marketing to the whole world is extremely expensive. And if they’re going to spend all that money, Leydon says they need to learn to measure the effectiveness of their spend to actual business results.

One thing he’s learned is that the value you get out of buying TV ads is only captured in digital.

If you’re tracking the effect ads have on your digital marketing efforts, meaning you’re measuring the click-through rates, then you’ll see that your advertising prices do go down when you buy on television.

Leydon argues that if you were just on television, your brand will likely go out of business.

You Can’t Rely On One Advertising Medium

If brands are tracking the way they buy and the ROI of their investment, they would see that they make their advertising medium much more expensive by just going to one channel. Leydon says that companies need to work with “absolutely everybody” out there to get the best price.

Brands must diversify their channel strategy because people aren’t just watching television or using Facebook or Twitter. People are using multiple sites, channels and apps every day. When you do so, Leydon says you can price your media much more effectively because you can make everyone compete with each other. Machine Zone reportedly uses over 300 channels for their advertising campaigns.

Why Advertising Is Broken

The problem Leydon sees is that currently there is no ad tech or software platform to make everyone truly compete in an open market. And he blames networks and agencies for this because they all create their own lock-ins that makes it very difficult for buyers to measure and quantify the value of their advertising spend.

Leydon commented that agencies exist “to steal my money.” And publishers intentionally mask their data to keep media buyers in the dark. Ouch!

Networks and media companies talk about how many eyeballs they have, but that is as much (or little) data as you’ll get from them. But to Leydon, that just doesn’t work anymore.

There is a lot of fraud out there, and buyers will increasingly want to know if these eyeballs are real or not and how they are performing. They will want to know the effects of their ad buying, and if they can buy more to scale.

Leydon believes that today’s media companies and networks lack this transparency and performance data. “Publishers are kind of dipping their toes in the water of digital, and they’re only doing it halfway and they’re getting really scared by it,” Leydon says. They don’t know what is happening and they just want to go back to television because they make more money from it than digital.

And agencies are telling buyers that they will help them and get them the best buys. But what is problematic about agencies, in Leydon’s opinion, is that they are worth what their sales are. If they make a hundred million dollars in sales, their business is worth a hundred million dollars in cash. So agencies are not “incentivized to do the right thing,” they are incentivized to convince buyers to buy and spend as much money as they possibly can, regardless of whether their ads are actually working or not.

That is why Machine Zone doesn’t go through agencies to buy ads. Publishers are not incentivized to quantify their audience and price their media, and agencies are working together in that. This allows them to all set prices based on this lack of transparency, without any real performance data to justify their pricing.

So why is there a push to avoid quantifying their media among networks and agencies? Leydon argues that media companies and agencies don’t actually have a real business. The users who consume their media don’t want to pay them anything and want everything for free, and they’re actively trying to avoid paying.

So publishers need to depend on someone else who has a real business and has something people actually want and are willing to pay for, to give them money so they can have a business. They rely on buyers, the ones with the actual business and money, to survive.

The reason why advertising is broken and why media companies are consolidating or even collapsing, is that, in Leydon’s words, they are in denial about “what their business really is, what their true value of their business is, and they’re doing everything possible to avoid real value measurement of what they do.”

The Rise Of Sophisticated Buyers

Buyers like Machine Zone are getting tired and frustrated with this lack of transparency and performance data, and it’s pushing for a new kind of buyers to appear – the “sophisticated buyers.”

As soon as buyers wake up and realize that they are the ones writing all the big fat checks to media companies and agencies, they will start demanding to know what is happening with their money. When this happens, Leydon says that the market will get re-priced very quickly.

Once buyers have insights into how their advertising dollars are spent and the positive ROI of these marketing channels, television-style advertising – the current version of brand advertising – will completely disappear. The new version will be highly measured. Digital will break it all down because it’s all trackable and price and value will become discoverable.

No one will want to do television-style advertising anymore and will focus on trackable digital media. That is why Leydon finds it bizarre and shocking to hear that some platform owners at the conference are trying to bring back television-style advertising and are moving away from programmatic advertising to native, non-skippable ads.

Leydon thinks this makes no sense at all. Why would any brands want to buy that when they could go to another platform and get real measurement and data on how well their ads are performing? When the market becomes more quantifiable, it will be hard for any CEO or executive boards to justify marketing investment they can’t measure. Brand advertising will suffer as a result.

Performance-Based Marketing Is The Future

That is why Leydon thinks media companies and agencies need to embrace and focus on performance marketing. Google is the world’s second largest company for a reason. It’s a performance marketing company. Facebook is worth $300 billion because they’re also a performance marketing company.

People buy and give them money because it’s trackable, measurable and quantifiable media. Leydon argues that programmatic, technology-driven ad purchasing is now and the future, and we’re not going back to the television-style advertising era.

Yet, media companies and agencies are actively avoiding performance marketing. This is why their value is shrinking and why they’re seeing so much failure. It’s because it’s simply just not working.

To survive and thrive in the era of “sophisticated buyers,” companies need to really understand what their buyers – the ones who are spending money – actually want. When your company’s strategy and product is centralized around the buyer and their needs to grow their business, your sales and revenue will grow too.

My Take

As a former media buyer with a multi-million media budget, I was committed to proving that marketing can drive real business results! We used our best (and tested) thought leadership content run natively on publisher sites, to negotiate media buys based on CPL (Cost Per Lead) only performance criteria.

Want to make media buyers scatter? Ask them for their terms on CPL-only buys. It takes a lot of media budget to get them just to sit at the table.

But this focus creates a win-win for everyone. Customers are given access to great content. Agencies and publishers get paid based on the performance of their media buys. And brands can quantify the value of their dollars, even after figuring in the cost to nurture and convert those leads down the funnel to actual sales.

I thought this video was so compelling that I actually watched in full-length twice! This is not a CMO or ad buyer. These are shockingly accurate comments from a CEO. Who mentioned multiple times that all the sophicticated buyers in the room would agree with him.

Do you agree with Leydon’s critiques? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share in the comments section below!

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customers for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help. 

Photo Source: https://www.recode.net/

Watch Leydon’s full interview at Code/Media below.

Presentations Need More Dragons: Corporate Storytelling Techniques

You know, deep in your heart, what presentations lack. Free doughnuts, yes, but they are also devoid of excitement, clarity, and fun. Corporate jargon is the little sister of legal jargon, each working hard to lull you into daydreams and resentment.

As a content strategist for a presentation design firm, my company wages war against terrible corporate presentations each day. A major problem is convincing clients that they need something more creative in the first place, even though all of our research and experience indicates that brains crave stories.

No one likes boring corporate content. So why does it keep happening?

The answer for that lies in the burden of tradition, or perhaps the feeling that Business starts with a large capital letter “B,” and should be handled carefully in pantsuits, ties, and shiny shoes. There is also perhaps the fear of looking unprofessional, and thus inexperienced or underprepared. Sometimes we receive content and design instructions from clients who use coded language to describe this desire. “Make it look conservative,” is something they will say, “conservative” meaning “dull” in this case.

Shake off your blazer and close all of those Excel spreadsheets that are open on your desktop: I have some important news for you.

You’re a natural storyteller.

Today you walked into the office and told your coworkers about the worst steak you’ve ever had the displeasure to eat. Or maybe you shared the story of what you do for a living to a date later that night. You tell stories all of the time, everywhere. The same is especially true for your business, no matter which industry you work in. There is the story behind the company’s foundation, the singular inspiration behind what you do, and so many other small tales that build up the fabric of your narrative.

Choose your tale.

The best presentations are story driven. They follow the arc of a narrative with a hero (AKA solution), a villain (AKA problem), and a happily-ever-after that either tempts the audience with a vision of possibility or gives them an ultimatum to act lest the hero meets their doom.

What’s your story? Who or what is the villain that your company faces each day? It could be as simple as a better way to keep shoes from scuffing to something complex like keeping our environment clean. Wherever there is a problem to face, there is a story behind it. This is also where a dragon enters the story: your problem should be described as bold, terrifying, and fire-breathing as the legendary creature itself.

Once you’ve established the villain of your story, a brave hero or solution must follow. After you’ve described the long teeth of the dragon, the flame-throwing power to melt dungeon walls, and the scales which no armor can pierce…your audience is going to look for a sense of relief. Choose a hero or solution that is formidable enough to fight your dragon and ready to demonstrate exactly how that will happen.

Here’s how to tell a story.

You have a mighty villain. You have a brave hero. Now you need to bring them to life within each slide of your presentation. There are a few different storytelling arcs that you could follow. Here’s some examples of a few that we love:

Hero’s Journey. This is a classic arc in which the audience meets the hero in the introduction of the story, and then travels along through the narrative as the hero meets and eventually defeats their own dragon. This format always has a beginning, middle, and an end which resolves the core conflict and gives your audience the satisfaction of a happy conclusion. 

Cliffhanger: In this story arc, the hero and villain are still introduced and the main journey is still followed. However, instead of creating a happily ever after, the presenter leaves an open-ended question or a cliffhanger to encourage their audience to act. An example of this would be a pitch deck about restoring the planet’s honeybee population. You might paint a picture of a world with a crumbling food supply and global devastation, and close the presentation on that vision with a final slide that says “only you can alter this future,” or something like it.

2nd Person Perspective: This is a storytelling tactic in which the presenter uses the audience as the hero of their story. Sound confusing? Think of all of those modern commercials today that start with audience-facing questions like “what if you could improve your productivity?” or “what if you could drive from Nashville to New Orleans on a single tank of gas?” The key for this kind of story is that you use a hero’s journey, but include the “you” tone throughout.

Write your dragon

I encourage you to tell one story about your brand, company, office, or product. Just one. Tell the story about how you came up with a great idea one stormy night, share the tale of your biggest triumph, or simply make something up.

Once you have this story, find a way to merge it into the content of your existing presentation, or rewrite the deck entirely. Think of it like a welding job, merging two different kinds of metals together to create something even stronger.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. But I guarantee that even the tiniest pinch of storytelling will make your presentation stronger and more memorable to your audience. All you need to do is start with a single story.

Image Source

7 reasons you’re not getting the most out of customer facing content

Missing or under-performing customer facing content has a significant impact on strategic business objectives:

  • new customer acquisition and organic revenue growth,
  • sales and marketing productivity and efficiency for lower selling costs,
  • data acquisition and
  • customer experience.

B2B lead generation and conversion rates are universally below expectations. Late stage content in sales cycles hasn’t evolved to support buyer-centered selling practices.

A realistic assessment of the underlying cause of the problem helps you apply the right solution, because it allows you to see the real cause of the problem. In our view, there are seven primary reasons you are not getting the most out of your customer facing content.

1. Customer Facing Content Is Not Created On Purpose

Content has a specific “job” to do for both marketing and sales tactics. How you define the purpose of your content depends on the specific information required for each “touch,” the user experience you want content to evoke, and the outcomes it needs to affect.  All of this must be explicitly defined for content creators.

Recommended practice: define content use case requirements and specifications for each content asset.

2. Poor Content Quality

B2B content quality is almost universally derided. Whether it’s the “content shock” or the CRAP dialog, the reality is well identified. Why is this still the case?

Content quality criteria have changed. We regularly hear of content audits and assessments conducted against the following criteria. Is content:

  • up-to-date
  • well written
  • in brand
  • in the voice of the customer
  • of high production value
  • mapped to a buyer stage (or persona)?

These are table stakes criteria. Necessary but no longer sufficient.

There are new criteria that are more focused on the contentS. They begin with the need to deliver differentiated and exceptionally useful insights. They also include the need to:

  • meet the use case purpose for which it’s needed (See #1)
  • focus on the right set of key points, facts, and stories for each use situation
  • produce the right form (micro, short, long) and formats (text, e-book, whitepaper, graphic, video, etc).

How do you define and communicate to content creators the quality criteria for each asset? This is essential to align content requesters, creators and users around a common understanding of quality for each asset.

Recommended practice: develop a master checklist of content quality criteria. Use a content requisition checklist that identifies all content quality factors for creators.

3. Content Is Not Relevant To Audiences

How have you documented your definitions of content relevance? Seldom are specific relevance criteria for each asset conveyed to content creators. In addition, seldom are production teams asked to create multiple versions to meet primary relevance use cases across the entire “buyer journey.” (See #1)

The best way to deliver optimal relevance for each situation, audience and purpose is to enable your front-line marketing and sales professionals with content that can be edited, configured and packaged into finished content.

Recommended practice: define relevance. Adopt modular content design practices to deliver editable and configurable content source to the front line. (See  #7)

4. Content Is Not Available When Needed

How have you defined your “meets minimum” content requirements? How well do you pre-produce content so it’s ready the moment it’s needed? “The right time” is NOW for important engagement points. Coverage of primary use case requirements matters. Critical mass matters. (See #1)

Recommended practice: define content coverage requirements based on use case assessments. Adopt a more leveraged content operation. (See #7)

5. Content Is Not Sales Ready

Content for sales is a major weakness for many organizations. Sales effectiveness is what delivers top business outcomes. How have you analyzed and specified sales content requirements? Typically, marketing content isn’t focused enough for key sales engagement purposes. It may not be in the right form or format. It might not be easily tailored for each situation. (See #1 and #2)

Recommended practice: develop a sales content strategy.

6. Ineffective Or Missing Content Strategy

Most content strategy is applied at the project or tactic level, sometimes at the function level. This is strategy to optimize individual work product quality. Few organizations have develop a unified, cross-functional content strategy at the business level to optimize business results. We seldom see formal and effect frameworks in place that deliver high quality content strategy outputs.

Recommended practice: adopted a business level content strategy based on a robust strategy framework.

7. Outdated Content Operations Model

Perhaps the most challenging reason you don’t get the most out of your content is your production model. Over 20 years creating content for B2B sales and marketing organizations we have determined:

The traditional, project-oriented, creative craftsman approach to content production is outdated. It can’t efficiently support the content requirements of ALL customer engaging functions across the enterprise. It will not meet the many new digital content criteria to support empowered buyers, their digital channel and format preferences. It cannot scale without compromise.

Symptoms include the inability to create a constant stream of content, optimized to the ten new criteria, especially at the pace and scale required.

Recommended practice: adopt a content supply chain process, and modular creation techniques, to leverage every project, resource, asset and invested dollar for maximum output, performance and business result.

The post 7 reasons you’re not getting the most out of customer facing content appeared first on Avitage.

You Get There First

Every day on my commute, I walk into Porter Square station to take the T (the Boston subway) from Cambridge and head south towards downtown Boston. When you first enter the station, you have to go deep underground to reach the tracks, so you have to make a decision each morning: Do you take the stairs or the escalator?

Now, if you’re in a hurry, you’d normally just walk down the escalator, right? Not so fast: Every morning, a small crowd gathers to board the escalator and forces you to stop walking for a moment if you want to get on. Meanwhile, to your left, people who picked the stairs aren’t breaking their stride at all. They’re already ahead of you.

So what do you do?

Do you wait your turn for the escalator, or do you continue your pace unbroken and take the stairs?

Every morning, I watch as a bunch of stressed out people weigh this decision for a split second when they enter the station. Many of them take the stairs.

Here’s what kills me about that decision: If they could have tolerated just a momentary pause right now, they’d have gone faster after that. But the problem is that this slight pause doesn’t FEEL like forward motion. They can’t think two steps ahead to see that, despite the upfront wait, the escalator is actually the better choice.

This is the business world playing out in my daily commute. Everywhere you look in the working world, you find people obsessed with short-term gains, with the spectacle of being busy. They create the illusion of making progress. Those who take the stairs right away without stopping to consider the best route have created that illusion. And it’s hard not to buy into it and panic when you’ve picked a different path. Every morning, as I’m shuffling slowly to the escalator, I watch people hit the stairs and think, Should I have done that?

But every morning, I get in line, and I take the escalator.

And I get there faster.

As creative individuals, we fight this battle every day — more than most, in fact. We’re allergic to all the short-term thinking around us. Because we study our craft and improve upon it, we wind up moving much faster than we ever thought possible. (It’s the same reason I prefer to hire writers who then learn marketing versus marketers who need to learn to write. It’s about quality, sure, but it’s also about moving faster. The marketer might portray the illusion of quicker progress because they can get the writing into the world faster, but once a writer takes on that little time debt to learn marketing, they’ll zoom past the marketer who struggles to write as naturally or freely or well.)

Said another way: Great creators of all types know that the means get you to the end, so we think about and agonize over the means. Those short-term thinkers? They tend to worship the end so much that they’ll do anything — even choose the wrong route — just to FEEL like they’re heading to the end more quickly.

Oddly enough for short-term thinkers to hear, we want to reach the same goal that they do — a thriving business, a popular blog, a huge audience, a throng of adoring fans. But the route we pick feels slower to them, just like the route they pick feels faster. But because we’re able to stomach the time it takes to be strategic, be thoughtful, or take risks, we get there faster.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has perhaps the most poignant stance on all of this: “We’re actually not focused on the numbers. We’re focused on the things that produce the numbers.”

That’s a long-term view of things. That’s the RIGHT view of things. He, like you, understands the interplay between the means and the end. If you want to reach the end faster, or get to a better end than before, you need to get better at the means. Want more sales? Create great products. Want a better blog? Write better. Want a bigger audience? Say things worthy of attention.

What do others do? Sell current products harder, game systems to grow traffic, and “growth hack” their way to new followers.

Enough. It’s not only wrong in the short term, it’s worse in the long term.

“We’re actually not focused on the numbers. We’re focused on the things that produce the numbers.” – Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

So each and every morning from here on out, when you feel stressed and rushed by your job or your peers or your boss or your industry, what will you do when you enter that station?

My advice? Don’t take the stairs. Don’t fall for the illusion perpetuated by those who do. Remember that the fastest and best route requires that momentary pause.

If you do this over and over again, you’ll eventually feel like you know a secret others don’t. You’ll be so confused when others agonize over problems that never even occurred to you. How do you come up with enough ideas? What’s the ideal word count of a blog post? Endless optimization, tips and tricks, and keyword research later — it starts to feel comical to you. Like taking the stairs when you could have taken the escalator. Because you are craft-driven. You looked at the long arc of your work and said, the way to do this better and get better results is to study the process, improve my craft, and honor it. That way, it all gets easier and more effective.

So when others agonize over all that short-term stuff, you smile.

You put your head down.

You keep creating things that are meaningful instead.

You study and improve your craft.

You do all these things that the short-term thinkers deem unthinkable.

And you get there faster.

Listen to the Unthinkable episode on being craft-driven:

iTunes | SoundCloud | Stitcher

The post You Get There First appeared first on Unthinkable.

2% Better: Why Creative People Obsess Over the Details

Creative individuals use words like “agonize” and “obsess” when referring to our work. We go home late or wake up early just to refine a tiny little piece of the overall project. Then we suddenly look up and hours have passed.

Why do we go through these mental time warps? What do we think we’ll find on the other side?

Today on the show, stories about craft-driven creators making something just 2% better.

We first go outside the echo chamber with Niko from Granny’s Pie Factory. Turns out they think about creativity and craft much like we do in the digital world.

Then, Macaela at Newfangled Studios teaches us her Unthinkable approach to the creative process.

Listen below or on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and wherever else you get your podcasts.

Thank you to Rightside Shirts for supporting Unthinkable. Rightside offers apparel designed by kids who submit their artwork, which then turns into all kinds of t-shirts, phone cases, and even watches. All profits help fund school art programs where it’s needed most. Help empower kids, promote creativity, and support local art programs — go to rightsideshirts.org.

The post 2% Better: Why Creative People Obsess Over the Details appeared first on Unthinkable.

Struggling with Marketing Design? Just Remember C.O.R.E.

Design shares a lot of similarities with Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A healthy dose of experimentation takes place, some lines are crossed, and most importantly, it involves finding a balance that’s “just right.”

Some prefer their porridge scalding hot or simply don’t mind that their bed was purchased at PetCo, and that’s okay, too. But if your goal is to please the majority of your audience with a strong, balanced presentation, remembering the C.O.R.E. principles of design is something you can’t afford to miss.

C.O.R.E.: Contrast, Orientation, Repetition, Experience.

Contrast

Simply put, contrast measures the amount of separation between elements. Contrast is not limited to color –  it also includes size, shape, typography, and positioning. This difference in appearance allows for a strong command of hierarchy on a page, from emphasis of headings to striking calls to action.

Too many contrasting pieces overwhelm and confuse, while too few can limit the impact of a message. Exercising a certain sense of balance is key.

Orientation

Orientation is concerned with the visual arrangement of elements. This is one of the more commonly overlooked principles on this list, yet it plays a surprisingly important role in design.

Consider this: You’ve likely used graph paper at some point in your life. The grid was probably comprised of squares of equal width and height, allowing you to create lines and shapes with precision. Designers actively use grids to align or “anchor” stuff in accordance with other stuff. This grid-based design approach is very pleasing to the eye and offers a sense of organization and tidiness.

Proximity between elements should also be considered when looking at orientation. By grouping like objects together and separating them from other bits and pieces, you can create a sense of breathing room that makes it easier to take in information, further supporting a visual hierarchy. Think of design proximity like bears — when in doubt, keep your distance.

Repetition

Repetition keeps your interactions consistent and predictable. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, it can mean using uniform margins, padding, and design features like color and shape throughout a story.

Behaviorally speaking, it’s the reason you expect to find navigation menus at the top of a webpage, or a footer with contact information at the bottom. It also aids significantly in brand strategy in much the same way a catchy song is arranged — repeating beats and distinct sound profiles support a continuous message that yield recognition.

Repetition creates patterns that act as the building blocks for just about everything designers create. Looking at ZocDoc’s recent rebranding effort, can you see how repetition played a role in the design process?

Experience

No, I’m not talking about that slightly-exaggerated part of your coworker’s resume, nor that time she allegedly broke her tibia leaping out the window of a bear dwelling. I’m talking about experience in design terms — how something you create affects the perceptions, behaviors, and expectations of an audience.

Experience can be viewed as two separate but interdependent categories: Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX). Design should inherently solve problems, not simply act as ornamental in their own sphere. Though this intentional way of thinking is nothing new, a variety of disciplines have emerged from this idea.

Something may be visually appealing but difficult to use, or it may be easy and intuitive but look downright bleak (sorry, Craigslist). Both of these scenarios have the potential to be successful in their own right, so ideally a diligent amount of research and testing should be conducted to find the best solution.

Your Next Design

Well, there you have it: The C.O.R.E. principles of design explained, or at least a solid introduction. The next time you need to design anything, use this handy acronym as an internal checklist, and be sure to subscribe to the SnapApp blog for more in-depth articles on these topics and more.

This article originally appeared on SnapApp.

Please enable javascript!

Subscribe to the SnapApp Blog!

//