Monthly Archives: September 2017

Enough of the Guru Worship: Why We Should Demote Our Favorite Experts

We hear it all the time: We live and work in the “Information Age.” And most of the time, this is something to celebrate! We have more access, more ways to self-express, more choice, more technology, and more opportunities. It’s great!

But…

The Information Age has a dark side: Advice Overload. It’s just so easy to do commodity work today. If we don’t have an idea or an answer, we can find and follow everyone else’s. We can slip into groupthink in our work. We can retreat into the view that most represents our own or cling to the tactics that best convey ease of execution or quickness of return. At very best, this leads to copycat thinking. At very worst, this leads to unrealized potential in our careers.

Today, I wanted to take a brief moment to step outside the endless search for better experts and wiser gurus and call for a simple switch in our thinking:

We view experts as people with answers. What if we viewed them as sources of possibilities instead?

Here’s why this could prove crucial in our attempts to create more exceptional work…

Over the summer, we used 8 episodes of my podcast, Unthinkable, to try and make sense of one idea: intuition. (If you want to explore the mini-arc, it begins with this episode titled “Our Journey Begins.”) Intuition is a squishy topic to say the least. Despite its presence and power in our lives, it’s rarely explained to us in a way that helps us proactively hone or apply it in our work. Albert Einstein once called it a “feeling” for the order lying behind the appearance of something. Malcolm Gladwell called it “rapid cognition” or snap judgments. Even in research psychology, people like Gary Klein and Gerd Gigerenzer don’t make it overly tangible, referring to our “subconscious reasoning” — an idea known as “priming” in the psychology world (stuff you experienced before but hardly noticed that influences your decisions later).

Whether you look at the definitions and explanations in pop science, harder science, or the rollercoaster of a ride we went on in those 8 podcast episodes, you’ll struggle to arrive at the conclusion that intuition is more powerful than the expert’s advice.

But no matter the explanation you find or create, one thing is clear: Your intuition is YOU, thinking for yourself.

It’s not your gut (guts don’t have thoughts) or the muse (a myth, after all). It’s you, coming up with a thought.
In other words, it’s this, but really fast:

And I think that SPEED is the reason we struggle to understand intuition and value it over the expert advice. When we think for ourselves or use our intuition, others can’t easily understand where we got that idea or where it leads us. We’ve taken a mental path that resembles an exponential curve, like this:

On the other hand, all the conventional thinking out there is like a straight line, and straight lines are easy to understand and explain.

Do you remember the equation for the slope of a straight line?

Rise over run.

That’s it. It’s the up versus the out. All you need are two points anywhere on the line, and you can quickly understand where it came from and where it leads you. And so the convention is easier to agree to or follow.

But what about that exponential curve created by using intuition? That’s much trickier to understand. Because who remembers how to calculate the slope of exponential curves?
I actually tried to look this up today, and, well…

I found myself buried in lengthy videos and dense essays describing how, with “a few simple formulas pulled from basic calculus…” (eye twitch)

My exploration led to a lot of people saying, “It depends on the line and all this other stuff that makes my voice sound like the parents in Peanuts cartoons,” or my favorite response: “It’s not so bad. Here’s a PDF to read…”

The PDF was 120 pages.

One-hundred. And twenty. Pages.

Compare that to “rise over run,” and you can see why we struggle to explain intuition. We can’t easily tell where it came from or where it leads us — not like we can with conventional, linear thinking.
But using your intuition is still YOU. It’s just that YOU are running an exponential equation. You’ve taken this:

And you’ve turned it into this:

Intuition is your intent to do something, powered by the number of possibilities you’ve questioned.

In the Information Age, this is incredibly powerful. We’ve NEVER had more access to more possibilities. THAT is what all those experts are for: They don’t provide us with final answers, they arm us with some of the many possibilities we should consider.

That’s the easy part.

So the KEY is in asking the right questions of all that expert advice.

It’s time to demote our experts. They’re not bringers of answers. They’re sharers of possibilities.
Plug THAT into the formula above, and the most powerful individual in the equation isn’t them.

It’s you.


We found 6 questions that we can use to trust our intuition, i.e. think for ourselves, in this world of Advice Overload. They are…

  1. What is your aspirational anchor?
  2. Why are you the person or team to do this?
  3. What is your first-principle insight?
  4. Who are your true believers?
  5. What are your constraints?
  6. How can you expand?

To hear all 6 explained, as well as some incredible stories of people who dare to question conventional thinking, listen to the episode below, then the 7 that came after it:

The post Enough of the Guru Worship: Why We Should Demote Our Favorite Experts appeared first on Unthinkable.

How Ecommerce Brands Should Approach Content Marketing in 2018

Content marketing is changing. In the past, you might have been able to get real ROI from lazily publishing 500-word articles on your blog week after week, but it’s not enough anymore. In order to use content to build brand awareness, differentiate from competitors, secure customer loyalty, drive more traffic to your product pages, and increase sales for your ecommerce business, you have to approach it differently than you have been these past few years.

As you read this, you might be thinking to yourself, “what’s actually changing about content? I haven’t really noticed any drastically different strategies being implemented by competitors or other brands I follow… what do you have to know in order to continue using it as a viable lead generation and conversion channel for your business?”

In this article, I’ll spend some time outlining some of the newest ways brands are using content to differentiate and make an impact, show some real examples from well-known brands, and provide you with some actionable tips that you can use to build a better content strategy for your ecommerce business for the next year ahead.

How Content Marketing is Changing

There’s been a growing concern among many businesses, brands, and marketing professionals lately that content no longer provides the value that it once did. I think it’s a fair assessment to make. Most of what used to work 5 years ago, 3 years ago, and even 12 months ago isn’t viable anymore.

In the past, content marketing used to be all about:

  • Creating content
  • Building links
  • Keeping a consistent weekly publishing schedule
  • Hiring cheap writers or interns to produce content
  • Repurposing a topic that someone else had already written about
  • Sharing blog posts with followers on Facebook and Twitter
  • Trying to get people to sign up for a blog updates email list
  • Aggressively promoting or linking to products in blog posts
  • Not being entirely sure how to measure success

But this approach isn’t effective anymore, and it surely won’t be effective going in 2018.

The best and most innovative ecommerce brands are starting to recognize this, and they’ve already started making changes to their strategy and how they think about and approach content.

For them, content marketing is all about:

  • Telling stories, sharing experiences, and being more transparent
  • Creating content resources and presentations that can’t be easily repurposed by another person or brand
  • Focusing more on quality and actual value, as opposed to quantity or output
  • Hiring skilled writers and journalists to create compelling stories and epic content resources
  • Focusing more on developing authentic relationships with marketing partners and influencers, and less about using outdated promotion and outreach tactics to build links.
  • Nurturing relationships with prospective customers by segmenting, personalizing, and promising to provide specific value to subscribers based on their interests and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
  • Focusing less on product promotion, and more on helping people, supporting movements, and authentically engaging in the communities they serve.
  • Being hyper-focused when it comes to measuring performance and success, digging into analytics, launching a/b tests, setting goals, and tracking KPIs.

If this breakdown looks like more work, it’s because it is. Content marketing is getting much more competitive, and in order to continue seeing any sort of ROI from it, you have to be willing to do more. You can’t keep doing what you know or what’s worked in the past. You have to adapt, evolve, test, and try. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and money.

What Should Content Marketing Look Like in 2018?

In order continue getting value from your content marketing efforts, you need to make changes. The outline provided in the previous section provides some insight into what some of those changes might be from a high-level strategic perspective, but what do the changes actually look like when put into practice?

To answer that question, it’s helpful to look at what some of the most content-innovate brands are doing right now to set themselves apart, reach more customers, and continue getting real ROI from the time and money they put into their efforts.

Here are 5 examples that will help you understand what content marketing for ecommerce should look like in 2018:

1. YETI is Going Beyond the Blog Post – I’ve mentioned them in blog posts before, but they are worth mentioning again here. In 2017, YETI made a big push to create compelling stories that align with the values and interests of their target audience. Instead of creating tired, cheesy content about coolers and where you could use one of their coolers, they choose instead to create amazing storytelling packages made up of journalism-style writing, and rich photos and videos. They’ve essentially thrown out the idea of ever doing the type of blog post that you’re used to seeing on an ecommerce website, and instead, have made the decision to create content that they know their audience will and come back to them for. You probably won’t even notice the product placement within these video stories unless you look very closely.

2. S’well is Supporting Causes & Building Partnerships – S’well is operating in a particularly competitive product category—trendy, reusable water containers. Nevertheless, they’ve been able to gain traction by securing mutually-beneficial partnerships with designers, and by teaming up with nonprofits to support specific causes they know their target audience is passionate about.

3. Beardbrand is Working with Key Influencers – Beardbrand is another ecommerce company attempting to captivate a pretty specific and niche audience: beard growers. To connect with their target customer, they’ve focused on education from the beginning. But instead of creating all the content themselves, they’ve furthered their reach and tapped into more circles by working with other well known beard influencers to share knowledge and tips about beard growth. The products used in their styling & grooming videos are their own, but they spend hardly any amount of time promoting them. Instead, they focus on providing value. Beardbrand also expertly utilizes email as a way to promote content and boost loyalty among its current and future customers.

4. Harry’s Launched An Editorial Magazine – Harry’s targets a similar audience, but they approach their content differently. They launched and a digital editorial magazine called Five O’ Clock that provides customers with tips about grooming, wellness, productivity, happiness, family, and more. Most of the content is storytelling-based, as illustrated in this example below from one of the Harry’s co-founders (click here to read it):

5. Herschel Supply Connects Through Experiences – Instead of focusing solely on creating content that features or promotes their backpacks, Herschel instead sells their audience on the experiences they could be having. They publish rich photo features on their blog that take website visitors to different parts of the world. Although you can usually find at least one product in the photography included in the feature, it’s clearly not the focus or purpose of the content, as you can see in the example below. This feature was taking visitors through a local exploration and tour of Montreal. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the bag being carried by the man in the second photo is a Herschel bag, and if you look even closer, you’ll see a link to the product page for that page below the photo. Very discreet, and not at all forceful.

Actionable Steps You Can Take Now to Prepare for Content in 2018

So, you’ve gotten an idea of what your content strategy should look like in 2018, you’ve seen some examples of brands going above and beyond, and now you might be thinking, “what steps should take now to prepare for content marketing in 2018?”

Here are some actionable takeaways:

Tip #1: Figure out what kind of stories you can collect, package, and share. Content in 2018 will be heavily focused on storytelling. As an ecommerce business owner, it’s your job to figure out what kind of stories you can collect and share with your audience. To find the right storytelling angle, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my customers?
  • What do they care about?
  • What do they do in their free time?
  • What values do they share?
  • Who are their heroes?
  • How do our products help them?
  • What is our story?
  • Why do we do what we do?
  • Why should anyone care?
  • What message are we trying to send through the stories we ultimately tell?

Try to focus in on one category when thinking about the stories you collect and share through your content (example: adventure, wellness, love, kindness, etc.).

Tip #2: Make a list of potential partners you could work with. Think about who you know and who you want to know. Make a list of partners and people you could leverage know to reach new audiences and grow your business. It could be partners who can help promote your content, or it could be partners who could collaborate on products. Once you have that list completed, create a second list of dream partners that you’d love to work with at some point. Celebrities, industry influencers, and other brands that you admire. With both lists in hand, spend the next few months reaching out to people and making connections in preparation for the new year. Make sure you have a good idea of how you’d like to partner with each person or brand that you reach out to.

Tip #3: Embrace a movement. Consumers are crazy about social entrepreneurship. They actively search out companies and brands who are working to support causes they care about. Think about the products you sell and your mission, and try to find a cause, nonprofit, or movement you can align with. Create content that promotes your commitment to the cause and spreads the word about mission.

Tip #4: Hire a journalist or photographer (or both). Stop hiring the cheapest freelance writers you can find. Go big by hiring a freelance journalist or photographer to help you craft an amazing piece of content. Remember: your goal to to create content that can’t be easily replicated or mimicked.

Tip #5: Let your product pages do the selling. Use the content on your blog to educate and nurture relationships with your customers and prospects. Don’t use it as a place to sell. Your website visitors will know how to find the products on your website. Use content to show them that you’re actively interested in educating them and helping them achieve their goals.

Tip #6: Create one amazing content piece and see how your audience responds. If you’re not sure about completely flipping your existing content strategy on its head, start small. Come up with one big, fantastic idea and execute on it. Put more time and resources into this project than all your others, and see how your audience responds. If you get good feedback and good engagement on it, consider producing more content like it on a regular basis.

Some examples of amazing content you could produce:

  • A well-produced video that tells a story
  • A big interview with a customer or influencer that has a great story to tell
  • A photo series
  • An ebook
  • An email drip series
  • A big landing page full of actionable tips, best practices, and stories

Tip #7: Stop doing the stuff that doesn’t work anymore. Don’t create blog posts just because that’s what you’ve always done. Think more critically and strategically about the amount of time, energy, and money you put into your content marketing efforts. If you’re not seeing traction on the type of content you’re creating, try something else.

Tip #8: Keep watching other brands. Pay attention to the brands that you think are doing a fantastic job with content. Take notes about what you like and don’t like. Borrow ideas and tactics and apply them to your own content strategy.

Tip #9: Set goals and measure everything. If you haven’t really paid much attention to the performance of your content, it’s time to start. Engagement metrics like share, likes, and comments are great to keep track of, but they don’t tell the full story. You need to also know how many people are viewing your content, where they are coming from, where they go next, and how it ultimately impacts your revenue. Set aggressive goals, evaluate your failures and successes, and make changes to your strategy accordingly on an ongoing basis.

Over to You

What other brands are doing a great job with content marketing? Share your examples in the comments below.

The post How Ecommerce Brands Should Approach Content Marketing in 2018 appeared first on Sellbrite.

6 Reasons Your Marketing Video Isn’t Going Viral

It’s not a marketing secret or even a trend. Video marketing has become a sizable slice of the digital marketing pie. B2B, B2C, enterprise level, start-up, mom and pop shop – video does not discriminate. It works for everyone. According to Syndacast , when more than half of internet users watch videos online – every day – visual media naturally becomes a part of the air modern marketers breathe.

 

Make one of your goals to put out relevant, engaging videos and you can reap all the benefits of this content medium:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Social media engagement
  • Better lead generation numbers
  • Customer acquisitions
  • And, hopefully, some positive likability-loyalty points if you pull off humor or empathy through your video

When your goal is viral video marketing, on the other hand, your brand has the potential to become the face the entire world is watching and talking about – for your viral moment in time. A viral video creates a supercharge effect for all the normal benefits of video marketing.

So, how do you get your video to go viral? If you’re having trouble achieving viral lift-off, you may not have gotten the formula quite right. It takes a relevant idea, creativity, an emotional connection, and some technical SEO – as well as a lot of luck. This last factor is something you don’t actually have any control over.

What you can control is the viral-worthiness of your video. Go through this checklist of reasons why your video isn’t going viral and prime your visual content for viral success. That way, when lady luck does smile on your marketing video, it has everything in place to make it to the stars.

1. Your Video Doesn’t Evoke Emotion

Look at some of the best viral marketing videos:

Google Android’s Friend’s Furever – a mash-up of the cutest and strangest animal friends as part of their ‘Be together. Not the same.’ campaign.

Chipotle’s The Scarecrow – a dystopian video about sustainable farming and food production as part of their ‘Food with Integrity’ campaign.

And then, one of the funniest marketing videos of all time. DollarShaveClub.com’s Our Blades campaign.

Whether these videos warm your heart, trigger empathy, or crack you up, they are all playing off of emotion. Your video may be entertaining, filled with celebrities, or the most helpful piece of visual kit your customers ever saw. If it’s not creating an emotional response, it’s not going to go viral.

2. It’s Still in the Box

Viewers share video content that will wow their friends. So, in order to go viral, you’ve got to be original. This can be tough because if you go too out-of-the-box with your creative idea, you’re going to lose interest before you even get started.

Here’s an example of a totally fresh approach on the typical perfume commercial from Kenzo World. The genius here is that it still features a pretty woman in a glitzy, romantic environment, just like every other perfume ad. It’s just that this woman doesn’t act like the typical female fragrance heroine.

When coming up with ideas, ask if someone watching your video will be taken by surprise. Think about it, when you are wowed by something out of the ordinary, you don’t want to keep it a secret. You want to tell other people so they can get that same thrill. When you can motivate that response, you may have a viral marketing video.

3. You’re Not Using the Right SEO for Your Video

Before anyone can share your video, they first have to find it. You need to optimize your video for search engines to make it easy for people to find your content.

  • Your video title should be clear and appealing, i.e. very clickable
  • Use relevant keyword tags
  • Write an accurate description for your video – this is also where you want to put your call-to-action
  • Create some quality back links by reaching out to relevant websites and industry bloggers that may be interested in sharing your content
  • Share your video on your social media sites

4. You Don’t Have a Thriving YouTube Channel

YouTube isn’t the only social network for videos. Facebook, for example, is a huge visual media contender with over 4 billion video views every day. Still, when it comes to optimizing the conditions for your video to go viral, you do want to milk YouTube for all it’s worth.

In order to achieve a higher ranking on YouTube, factors like the number of views, ratings, and comments matter – but so does channel activity. Brands that regularly upload content to their YouTube channels, and have collected a high number of subscribers, are going to be more readily found on YouTube and more likely to have videos that go viral.

5. You’re Marketing Video Isn’t Part of a Larger Strategy

This is where your strategic marketing comes into play. Your marketing video is going to make a bigger splash if it is a part of a well thought out content marketing strategy.

Is your viral hopeful part of a wider marketing campaign? How receptive is your audience to this campaign? What type of feedback are you getting so far from your other content?

Have you been priming your social media followers and email newsletter subscribers with the right mood so the tone of your wow-factor video doesn’t come completely out of left field? For example, if Chipotle had been going in the direction of good humor on their Facebook page in the weeks leading up to The Scarecrow video, the context of the brand’s deep, thoughtful message wouldn’t have translated well.

Do you have other marketing videos planned? Is it part of a series? Should you have a follow-up or sequel video to capitalize on the effect of your viral video, like Dollar Shave Club’s Let’s Talk About #2 and Razor Man?

Is your landing page designed in such a way as to seamlessly flow with the personality and messaging of your viral video so when people do click to your website, they’re likely to stay there and explore?

6. You’re Not Lucky

Even if you have a viral-worthy video, that doesn’t mean it will go viral. Luck, timing, an experienced choreographer, planetary alignments – a lot goes into a video going viral. But, by making the effort to create a marketing moving picture masterpiece, you still win. You’ll have a high-quality, original, engaging marketing video that will make your viewers feel that much more is attached to your brand. And, of course, when you do get a viral one in six months, your millions of viewers will check out your earlier gem too.

Make an Impact: Intelligent Social Media Marketing

Investing in social media is something every business owner is told to do and something that every marketing department has to focus on – that’s a given. But the results can vary, and tracking and monitoring tangible success can be difficult. Return on investment in social media marketing has long been a tricky topic and yes, it can require a lot of hard work before ROI is generated but once the wheels are in motion, social media can be one of the most impactful tools and strategies for business growth.

 

Altimeter suggest only 34% of businesses feel their social strategy is connected to their business outcomes. This can be because of the haphazard way many companies approach social media, even today. Success in social media marketing can take considerable time and it’s at this point you should be considering the bigger picture and looking at the key determiners for business growth. The impact social media can have on your business splits into two definitive types:

  • Intangible impact: essential for brand awareness, but fairly difficult to measure. Metrics such as follower numbers, likes and retweets are often known as “vanity” metrics, yet do have a real role in your strategy. They indicate performance and success of campaign elements, although they do not link to and demonstrate direct business value.
  • Tangible impact: there are ways you can get more from your social media efforts and measure genuine business success directly linked to your actions. Elements such as website traffic, engagement with relevant influencers, and downloads or signups via social media updates can be tracked and directly connected to the success of a campaign.

Intelligent social media marketing is absolutely tied into making sure you focus on both the tangible and intangible impacts of all of your actions. Below is a closer look at five key elements and rules to keep in mind when planning the success and impact of your social media marketing:

Vanity Metrics vs Sanity ROI

As already discussed vanity metrics have been disregarded by many as having no value to any social media marketing campaign. This attitude is not helpful or beneficial to your business – although not a true measure of business impact, vanity metrics can be an early indicative sign of whether your campaigns are moving in the right direction. Indeed, you can tell almost instantly if a particular post, share or RT is attracting the wrong kind of attention too.

Website Traffic

Monitoring and managing web traffic is not as simple as just the numbers. The level of analysis and testing we can carry out means that traffic can be ranked in terms of effectiveness. Effective marketing strategists A/B test different kinds of content from plain text to questions, factoids to announcements, infographics, videos and more. Landing page designs can be tested and put out through social media as can both simple and rich text/data forms, allowing you to get an instant picture of how successful this kind of content is for your business.

Engagement

Engagement on social media is a sophisticated art. To truly connect with your audience and industry influencers you have to dedicate real effort to engaging with your audience. Engagement cannot simply be for the sake of it or because “you should”, it needs to be targeted, meaningful and in the interests of your audience. Common tweets such as “thanks for the RT” and “thanks for sharing” are well-known as fake engagement tactics (you can spot fake influencers a mile off as that’s all they do!) which achieve nothing for your business and do not impress or trick your audience into believing you’re a proactive, highly engaged company.

Competitor Benchmarking

Social media is about as transparent as marketing can be. You can monitor your competitors closely and work from their strengths and weaknesses on your own campaign. This can be where you can set your brand apart from your competitors. Indeed, many social media departments and professionals benchmarking for continual improvement and issue identification. Social media provides a very clear picture of performance across any business sector – for example, this can be seen clearly in recent social media analysis of the telecoms industry. Looking at leading telecoms brands, Sotrender found that growth metrics and “biggest or “most popular” metrics varied significantly.

Looking specifically at Pages on Facebook, they found the biggest pages were O2, EE and Vodafone but the brand Lycamobile actually had the biggest growth, at 3% compared to O2’s 0.7%.

Looking deeper, it is also possible to see that the highest number of engaged users seemed to closely correlate with the most engagement too, with Virgin Media and Three UK in the top two positions in both instances.

Being able to actively see what is working and not working for your competitors can help you position your own brand.

Customer Service

Customers expect better service more quickly and social media can facilitate this. Response times need to get quicker, as do response rates and with social media you can offer this to your customers easily and effectively. Good social media customer service is ideal for sentiment tracking, providing a valuable insight into customer opinion and brand reputation.

Achieve Social Media Impact with Intent

For your social media marketing efforts to be a success they have to be intentional and organised. A haphazard approach doesn’t work for even the biggest brands and companies who want to stand out have to approach matters strategically and with an end goal in sight. No metric should be discounted when monitoring your social media impact and while the success of a campaign may not rely upon how many likes you have, this doesn’t make that figure pointless. Impactful social media marketing is all about intent, purpose and making the most of all the data you have to work with.

How Customer Loyalty Is Really Earned

You can’t buy your customers. Promotional offers, special discounts, and giveaways may motivate more sales – during the promotional period. They may gain some brand favor while the free sample is being used or the discounted subscription pricing is in effect. Even loyalty programs have an appeal, but they do nothing to establish brand authenticity. When the honeymoon is over, you’re left to face the reality of who everyone in the relationship truly is.

Brand and customer, til’ customer dissatisfaction or brilliant competitor marketing, do you part.


Trying to improve your customer retention numbers with short-term savings, deals and other offers is a short-term solution. This tactic doesn’t, however, impact who your brand is in the eyes of your target buyers, nor does it influence who your customers are in relationship to your brand.

  • Extremely satisfied customer arm in arm with industry leader with a killer customer service department.
  • Your product/service-will-do-for-now, dancing with qualified brand that is unable to express its UVP effectively.
  • Uncertain buyer agrees to drinks and dinner (it’s free, why not?) with new business with a great social media presence, but really nothing to back it up with.

Which relationship is going to last?

To earn customer loyalty, the real thing, you need a long-term strategy, not a short-term 20 percent off all products solution. These types of customer loyalty tactics are fleeting and aren’t effective at retaining customers.

If you want your customers to stick around, even when you have to increase your prices or your order arrives a few days late, you have to be the brand they want to do business with. How do you become ‘the one’?

Establish Trust

Trust has taken on a whole new meaning for the consumer-business relationship in the past 20 or 30 years. This isn’t just because consumerism has changed but rather because the world has catapulted into a new era – it’s a digital, post-internet, waxing smartphones-waning coral reefs world.

  • Organizations have to convince customers to trust them with their personal data
  • Consumers have easy access to more information and as such demand a higher level of transparency
  • Brands are expected to give back to the global community and align with their buyers’ personal values

Cultivating trust isn’t something that happens overnight. This is because it takes years to build up a solid reputation.

Brick, by brick, every piece of content you publish can be used to establish your brand as a trusted industry leader. Transparency should be a priority – this means publicly admitting mistakes and making your business’s stance on privacy and data sharing clear.

Genuinely giving back in some way, is another important factor for becoming a trustworthy brand. Think of brands like Newman’s Own – a company that has given away more than $495 million to nonprofits. Who doesn’t feel good about buying Newman’s Own pasta sauce? A Nielsen study found that, worldwide, 73 percent of millennials and 66 percent of consumers of all age groups are willing to pay more for sustainable brands.

If you want long-term commitment, trust, transparency, and responsibility are powerful tools for convincing customers to be loyal – not to mention these values foster a more positive workplace environment and a more fulfilling job for you.

Provide Social Proof as Subtle, Yet Powerful Magnetism

Don’t stop with being an authentic, trustworthy brand. To earn your customers’ loyalty, you’ll also have to demonstrate that other people already believe in the business. Customer testimonials, positive online reviews, customer recommendations on social media. They all put out those subtle messages that what your product or service offers is worth it.

image source

Social proof is an important part of expressing the value of your brand to your consumers. Nothing says, ‘I’m worth it’ like, ‘they think I’m worth it, you don’t want to miss out’. Call it herd mentality, self-determination theory or implicit egotism, it doesn’t matter. Part of the human experience is feeling connected to our families, friends, community, and the whole of humanity. Social proof plays off this essential concept of how the human psyche operates.

Respond to Customer Feedback

Who wants to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t listen to their needs? This is an essential part of successful marketing for customer relationship building: becoming a better listener.

  • Are you researching what your market is saying about your industry, your product, and your competitors on social media sites, blog comments, and community forums?
  • How quickly and consistently does your brand respond to feedback (online reviews, social posts, customer emails), both publicly and privately?
  • How much is your messaging influenced by customer feedback channels?

It’s one thing to answer all customer complaints, respond to feedback, and allow for an open dialogue. But, to take your customer relationship building to the next level, try being responsive to what you hear. Complaints about your milkshake recipe? What can you do to make it better? Chatter on Facebook about how expensive your industry’s services are? Highlight your efficient, flexible pricing more in your marketing and plan a series of blog posts helping viewers get more value out of the service you provide.

Never Stop Improving

Real customer loyalty is forever. That’s a long time. Don’t expect to offer the same Pepsi for 50 years and keep people interested in your brand. The most successful businesses understand this concept and are always finding ways to become better. For marketers, this means always finding ways to stay relevant with fresh content, original ideas, and an ability to leverage the latest technologies available to improve the customer experience.

You don’t need to have Apple’s R&D department or Netflix’s uncanny ability to predict consumer trends. It’s simply a matter of always striving to do more.

  • Are the people on your marketing contact list actually reading your email newsletters? If not, how could you make them more interesting and useful?
  • Would your customers benefit from a branded app?
  • Have you made a personal outreach to any existing customers this week?
  • How are you going to make next year’s marketing event better?
  • When was the last time your marketing video went viral?

To encourage loyalty, show them their favorite brand isn’t ever going to go stale. Pay attention to trends and evolving customer expectations so you are always in a position to offer both the brand identity and consistency they count on, as well as that something ‘more’ they are longing for (and may genuinely need to suit their changing business or personal needs).

Customer Loyalty Is a Long-Term Game

You can buy a few customers in the short-term with a great deal. You’ll attract business with those punch cards and loyalty programs. But real customer loyalty is something brands have to earn. By infusing trust and responsiveness into your marketing strategies. By demonstrating genuine value through both the feedback of other customers and an ability to evolve, you’ll become a difficult brand to ever walk away from.

3 Reasons Why Medium-Sized Businesses Need Contract Management

Contracts are essential for large companies. It is a part of the normal business protocol.  Even if employees do not understand how essential contra

Contracts are essential for large companies. It is a part of the normal business protocol.  Even if employees do not understand how essential contracts are, they are usually aware of the existence of contracts.

In those businesses, there is likely a certain protocol in place for how to handle contracts. There is also likely a certain person or certain people that are designated within the relevant department that sign the contracts. There are also procedures that are used to handle the signed contract after it has been returned from the other party and signed by their authorized person.

The Medium-Sized Business and Contracts

More than likely there are conventions in place for medium-sized companies as well. However, as we funnel down to small business or single-person (sole proprietorship) businesses, the likelihood goes up that there is a lack of conventions that are used for the management of contracts.

While small businesses and sole-proprietorships may be able to survive without having systems in place to manage contracts, medium-sized companies actually need to have a process around this. And, with more and more creative methodologies in place and creative contracting of freelancers (outsourcing) happening, there is much more need for consistent practices around contract management.

Contract Management

Simply put, contract management is a specific system that is put in place to create and maintain a contract.

A great look at the benefits of having a system of contract management, as well as the definition, by context, is “4 Benefits of Using an Automated Contract Management System.”

As we mentioned, above, there is a need for this contract management, particularly for medium-sized businesses. There are three key reasons why this is crucial.

Reason 1: Rely on the Management Rather Than Memory

The first reason is to use contract management is so that you don’t have to rely on your memory to recall key details of contracts. While this can be done for freelancers or sole proprietorships, a medium-size business has many moving parts, including the management of the company, and requires a better processing system.

When a medium-size business is growing, it likely will have a dozen contracts or more. It is not possible to keep all the information from these contracts in your memory. Furthermore, there may be certain stipulations or details that you are not able to recall, which can prove to be key in certain scenarios.

Even if you are able to do so, do you really want to base the profit of your medium-sized business on all the factors that could go wrong with a reliance on memory?

Reason 2: Easy Access to Contracts (Efficiency)

Even if you do have contracts and a basic contract management process of filing them, you will also need a process to retrieve them. A physical file cabinet may be work for a small amount of contracts, but not for a medium-sized business that needs a digital filing system and has multiple employees involved in any given contract.

By developing some sort of centralized, digital storage of contracts, you allow for easy access.  The key is to define the contract management policies (how the contracts are filed) and then ensure that employees understand it.  The importance of understanding is that employees will be able to electronically file the contracts and other employees will be able to retrieve the contracts when needed.

By setting up your centralized, digital storage, you will find that the process of handling your contracts is that much more efficient.  With this efficiency comes other benefits, such as less time lost, less confusion and increased productivity.  Those types of benefits definitely help a medium-sized company, but can also benefit any sized company.

Hey, if we are automating our social media campaigns, for improved efficiency in our medium-sized companies, why not automate our contract management?

Reason 3: Future Enhancement of Contract Strategy

Let’s say you pull up your financial reports and you notice that this time last year you made 25% more profit than this month.  Maybe, you decide that something needs to be done to encourage additional contracts and additional income.

Granted, I’m sure there are systems in place for how you go about this.  You could continue with the status quo and attempt to close more deals, convert more leads, and whatever it takes to increase your profit.

But, what if you decide that you need a creative approach? Maybe you and your team have decided that you want to offer a creative sale deal.

The specifics of creating these types of sales deals go beyond the scope of this article.  However, since we are talking about contracts, these specialized types of contracts should be included in this discussion.

Thinking About the Special Service Contract

With a special service deal, you may need to develop a new contract that goes with that special service deal.  You will want to include the definition of the included services.  You will also want to include the definition of the scope of the included services.  That would include the length of time and other additional factors.  All of this would accompany the contract.  You can likely find another contract that is similar and copy it and modify it to meet the standards of the special deal.

With all of this going on and all of the marketing that is required to get the job done, you really need a way to make it easier for you and your team.

Enter contract management.

By being able to access a digital version of all contracts, it is easier for you to access a copy of a contract that is the most similar to your special offer.  You are then able to copy it and create a new contract while copying over all the original information that is needed for any contract within your organization.  You have saved time and you are on your way to making money!

In Summary

Whether you choose to use a contract management system or not, as a medium-sized company, that is your choice (of course!).  But, there are some really good reasons why it may be a benefit to your company.  It can even be a benefit to an online content marketing company.  One of the easiest ways to sum it up is that the benefits typically include efficiency improvements.  As a result, profit increases and your organization will be on its way to being able to generate more sales at a faster rate.

 

cts are, they are usually aware of the existence of contracts.

In those businesses, there is likely a certain protocol in place for how to handle contracts. There is also likely a certain person or certain people that are designated within the relevant department that sign the contracts. There are also procedures that are used to handle the signed contract after it has been returned from the other party and signed by their authorized person.

The Medium-Sized Business and Contracts

More than likely there are conventions in place for medium-sized companies as well. However, as we funnel down to small business or single-person (sole proprietorship) businesses, the likelihood goes up that there is a lack of conventions that are used for the management of contracts.

While small businesses and sole-proprietorships may be able to survive without having systems in place to manage contracts, medium-sized companies actually need to have a process around this. And, with more and more creative methodologies in place and creative contracting of freelancers (outsourcing) happening, there is much more need for consistent practices around contract management.

Contract Management

Simply put, contract management is a specific system that is put in place to create and maintain a contract.

A great look at the benefits of having a system of contract management, as well as the definition, by context, is “4 Benefits of Using an Automated Contract Management System.”

As we mentioned, above, there is a need for this contract management, particularly for medium-sized businesses. There are three key reasons why this is crucial.

Reason 1: Rely on the Management Rather Than Memory

The first reason is to use contract management is so that you don’t have to rely on your memory to recall key details of contracts. While this can be done for freelancers or sole proprietorships, a medium-size business has many moving parts, including the management of the company, and requires a better processing system.

When a medium-size business is growing, it likely will have a dozen contracts or more. It is not possible to keep all the information from these contracts in your memory. Furthermore, there may be certain stipulations or details that you are not able to recall, which can prove to be key in certain scenarios.

Even if you are able to do so, do you really want to base the profit of your medium-sized business on all the factors that could go wrong with a reliance on memory?

Reason 2: Easy Access to Contracts (Efficiency)

Even if you do have contracts and a basic contract management process of filing them, you will also need a process to retrieve them. A physical file cabinet may be work for a small amount of contracts, but not for a medium-sized business that needs a digital filing system and has multiple employees involved in any given contract.

By developing some sort of centralized, digital storage of contracts, you allow for easy access.  The key is to define the contract management policies (how the contracts are filed) and then ensure that employees understand it.  The importance of understanding is that employees will be able to electronically file the contracts and other employees will be able to retrieve the contracts when needed.

By setting up your centralized, digital storage, you will find that the process of handling your contracts is that much more efficient.  With this efficiency comes other benefits, such as less time lost, less confusion and increased productivity.  Those types of benefits definitely help a medium-sized company, but can also benefit any sized company.

Hey, if we are automating our social media campaigns, for improved efficiency in our medium-sized companies, why not automate our contract management?

Reason 3: Future Enhancement of Contract Strategy

Let’s say you pull up your financial reports and you notice that this time last year you made 25% more profit than this month.  Maybe, you decide that something needs to be done to encourage additional contracts and additional income.

Granted, I’m sure there are systems in place for how you go about this.  You could continue with the status quo and attempt to close more deals, convert more leads, and whatever it takes to increase your profit.

But, what if you decide that you need a creative approach? Maybe you and your team have decided that you want to offer a creative sale deal.

The specifics of creating these types of sales deals go beyond the scope of this article.  However, since we are talking about contracts, these specialized types of contracts should be included in this discussion.

Thinking About the Special Service Contract

With a special service deal, you may need to develop a new contract that goes with that special service deal.  You will want to include the definition of the included services.  You will also want to include the definition of the scope of the included services.  That would include the length of time and other additional factors.  All of this would accompany the contract.  You can likely find another contract that is similar and copy it and modify it to meet the standards of the special deal.

With all of this going on and all of the marketing that is required to get the job done, you really need a way to make it easier for you and your team.

Enter contract management.

By being able to access a digital version of all contracts, it is easier for you to access a copy of a contract that is the most similar to your special offer.  You are then able to copy it and create a new contract while copying over all the original information that is needed for any contract within your organization.  You have saved time and you are on your way to making money!

In Summary

Whether you choose to use a contract management system or not, as a medium-sized company, that is your choice (of course!).  But, there are some really good reasons why it may be a benefit to your company.  It can even be a benefit to an online content marketing company.  One of the easiest ways to sum it up is that the benefits typically include efficiency improvements.  As a result, profit increases and your organization will be on its way to being able to generate more sales at a faster rate.

 

How to Create a Brand Advocate Army

What’s the most powerful element of your marketing strategy? High quality content, UX, SEO, live video, unforgettable events? Nope. It’s not personalization. It isn’t social marketing lead generation. Not even the use of next gen AI and machine learning hold a candle to the voice of your existing customers. McKinsey puts word of mouth behind between 20 and 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.

What one person says about your brand, whether through online reviews, social media or even while having coffee with a friend, has the ability to convert like nothing else. It is the customers who are more than satisfied and who are motivated to share their positive experience with your brand who become your biggest fans – and your greatest asset.

According to a HubSpot study, 75 percent of consumers do not even consider advertisements as true. But, 90 percent believe brand recommendations from friends and 70 percent trust consumer opinions.

This phenomenon is why tactics like word of mouth (WOM) and influencer marketing have become major priorities. It is due to the fact that social proof works in marketing, and that today more than ever, traditional advertising is losing its sway over consumers.

Marketers are turning to brand ambassadors, influencers, and just simply motivated customers to help them meet their marketing goals – building brand awareness, acquiring new customers and keeping those retention numbers at a healthy level.

How can you create more of these highly satisfied customers who post pictures of your product on Instagram and take the time to write a review on your business’s Facebook page? More importantly, what can you do to encourage them to advocate for your brand?

Offer Incentives

Incentives work. They are particularly useful when first building your brand advocate army. Less people are going to follow your Twitter page, post a review or in some other way identify themselves with your brand online if other people aren’t doing it. This is true regardless of the quality and value of your product or service.

Incentivizing social media engagement and online reviews is more common than you may assume. 79 percent of consumers say their primary reason for liking a company’s Facebook page is to get a discount.

Attracting more engagement with a worthwhile incentive can get the ball rolling. For example, businesses may offer a discount for liking a post or for tweeting about their experience. For small businesses who are either new or are newly creating their online presence, running a contest to get clients to post a review in exchange for an entry to win a cash reward or promo offer, will help to build that critical fan base foundation.

Start a Referral Program

Referral programs are great for encouraging your existing customers to do some marketing for you. Just imagine – if every one of your customers was able to bring in one lead, what would happen?

Mega growth. That’s exactly what happened with Dropbox, the quintessential example of referral success. By offering 16 GB of free space for inviting a friend, the company grew from 100,000 users to 4,000,000 users in 15 months.

They basically were able to double their users every 3 months. Part of why their referral campaign was so successful is Dropbox focused not on what they were asking for but what they were offering – free space.

Educate with Customer-Centric Knowledge

When you use your content marketing to educate your market about the topics that will help them improve their lives, then you just offered shareable information on a silver platter. Ask yourself when you are creating your content schedule, is this blog post something your customers would want to share with their friends or their colleagues? Will they want to repost your brand video or share a link to your podcast because they believe it is of a great enough value that their network would be interested?

Adobe’s State of Content report found that some of the top reasons for sharing content are because people want to:

  • Raise awareness on an issue
  • Share knowledge
  • Show others content that’s enjoyable
  • Connect with others

Be of Value to Society

And let your customers be a part of that value. According to a Nielsen study, more than half of consumers, worldwide, will pay more for products or services from the brands that are aligned with their values. Whether it is the environment and sustainability or social awareness and dedication to a cause, consumers are more passionate about the brands that advocate their passions.

You don’t have to take up a set cause to inspire your ‘super promoters.’ Simply speaking out or becoming involved as issues arise can show consumers how much your brand cares. More importantly, you’re giving your brand advocates a good reason to talk about your company.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters is one of numerous companies who stepped up to help raise money for the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Not only are acts like this socially responsible but they also give consumers a huge incentive to take thirty seconds to share a post on social media.

Say Thank You

When someone writes a positive review, refers a friend, shares their experience with their social networks or in any way advocates your brand, say thank you. Real brand advocates are the ones who shout out your brand all the time, whenever they have a positive experience. Great customer service – again. They love the new update to your product or service, just like they loved it when they first signed up or made a purchase.

The best way to encourage more advocacy from the satisfied customers who already are happily talking about your brand is to let them know their act was appreciated.

You can’t thank every action. However, when you can respond to an online review or social comment, do it. If your brand advocate is in your CRM and you can send a thank you email or even a personalized note or small token gift, go for it. Your brand advocates are marketing for your brand essentially as a way to express their gratitude for your product, or even for your incentive. Keep the gratitude loop going.

Use the Rest of Your Marketing Strategy

While word of mouth marketing may be your strongest asset, that doesn’t mean you don’t need everything else to inspire advocacy. Keep the needs, wants, and expectations of your best customers in mind when you create your marketing campaigns. The more you think of them, the more they will think of your brand.

Top 8 Mistakes People Make with Marketing Automation

There is no definitive ‘right’ way to achieve success through marketing automation, but there certainly are quite a few wrong ways. I’ve compiled a few of the top marketing automation mistakes people make. Make sure you aren’t making any of them!

1. Being inorganic

One of the primary dangers of marketing automation is also one of its key elements: automation. A successful marketing automation program requires a light touch. It requires communications which mimic real, human interaction while retaining the labor-saving advantage of automation.

 

Use templates and scheduled messaging, by all means, but make sure you have a human being creating and proofing each message. Customers don’t like to feel that they are communicating with a bot. Give them something of genuine value which feels like pure, personal communication.

2. Flipping the wrong personal switches

If you are irritating your customers and prospects with poor quality communication or with too high a volume of messages, then you are doing marketing automation all wrong.

The whole idea of MA is not simply to get your voice heard as often and as loudly as possible – and to stick in the audience’s mind in any way you can – it is to create meaningful bonds between your organization and your prospects or customers.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What content do they want to see? What is going to get on their nerves? How can you foster a positive atmosphere of engagement? A little empathy goes a long way in marketing automation.

3. Failing to plan

Without an objective – without a target at which to aim your content marketing automation efforts – you are, unfortunately, destined to fail.

It is true that vast, long-term goals can overwhelm and get in the way of innovation and creativity, and that short-term incremental goals are better for developing forward motion, but this only gives us part of the picture.

The key is to strike a balance. Utilize short-term goals on a monthly, weekly and daily basis, to gauge your progress and assess the efficacy of what you are trying to achieve.

But, also support this with a wider, more comprehensive strategy. It is this long-term objective which will help you to shape your movements in the short-term. Too many marketing automators are losing sight of this and ending up directionless.

4. Getting the focus wrong

Successful marketing automation requires serious reach. It requires the capability to get your products, services and other offerings in front of as many eyes as possible as you seek to raise the profile of your brand.

However, reach should never be your primary assessment metric. Instead, your focus should be on reaching out to the right people and making sure your marketing efforts are effective, rather than just far-reaching.

After all, converting 20% of 2,000 leads is better than converting 1% of 10,000. Know your audience, know your messaging, and combine these two fields to achieve a razor-sharp and highly effective marketing automation efforts.

5. Ticking boxes

One of the biggest mistakes people make, in general life as well as in marketing automation, is growing complacent. Perhaps our marketing automation education followed a familiar trajectory: we heard about its advantages, we studied it, we implemented a few best practices, then we moved on.

Unfortunately, we cannot approach marketing automation in this way. The field of MA is constantly evolving and developing. In the B to B business community alone, MA adoption has risen eleven-fold in only six years.

Therefore, we must continue evolving and developing too. Maintain a solid ethos of learning and development, stay ahead of the curve when it comes to industry best practices and understanding, and remain flexible and agile enough to implement changes when necessary.

6. Ignoring buyer profiles

The beauty of marketing automation lies not simply in its potential for saving you serious time and effort, but in the way in which it can be used to profoundly connect with an audience. To achieve this in an effective manner, that audience must first be segmented using customer understanding and carefully honed buyer profiles.

A major mistake that people make when approaching marketing automation – and one which can be easily avoided – is ignoring this approach and focusing instead on mass communication.

Marketing automation, by its very nature, is always going to involve a degree of generalization.

However, we can temper this by doing our utmost to give our audience the communication they want and need. By tailoring certain offers to certain buyer profiles, marketing automation becomes far more effective in terms of results, effort and cost.

7. Inefficient use of tools and platforms

Implementing a high-quality suite of tools and the right sort of marketing automation platform can be a little on the expensive side. This is not to say that such an endeavor is not worthwhile – although, it is up to you to decide this for yourself – but it does mean that marketers must ensure they are getting the full worth from what they are using.

This means taking a careful and considered audit of your automation procedures. What do you want to achieve? Are you able to achieve this with your current platform? Are you paying for superfluous tools? Is your current suite of tools scalable to meet your needs as your company grows? Answer these questions and confirm maximum efficiency for your business.

8. Forgetting about data generation

Marketing automation is not a pit which we pour data into. Of course, MA endeavors are driven and fueled by data but they are also data generators themselves.

Each time you interact with a prospect or customer, each time you succeed in achieving a conversion from lead, or even when you fail, you generate a new set of data points which can be used to craft future strategies.

There is no such thing as bad data or data which is completely useless. Don’t forget this when you implement marketing automation strategies within your own business. Harness the data you create and use it to make your future marketing initiatives ever more potent.

Okay, so now you know the biggest marketing automation mistakes people make. So, make every effort to avoid these on your journey to more efficient and effective marketing automation.

The post Top 8 Mistakes People Make with Marketing Automation appeared first on GetResponse Blog – Online Marketing Tips.

How to Attract B2B Buyers with Killer Content

Content marketing is booming. According to the 2017 B2B Content Marketing Trends, 39% of companies are increasing investment in content marketing.

And yet most companies are not creating effective content.  Want proof?

Two of the leaders in B2B funnel benchmarking, SiriusDecisions and Forrester, will tell you that inquiry-to-closed-won conversion ratios are often below two percent in most industries, even for those who follow best practices. Of course, if you go upstream of lead capture, the conversion rates of clicks or traffic to closed-won business are absolutely microscopic.

There are many reasons for these low conversion ratios. The competition is growing more intense every day, with avalanches of new content sliding into the market. And let’s face it, creating compelling content is hard.

In short, the market seems to believe that content creation, in and of itself, will win the day. It won’t. You really need the right content. Mastering the five critical steps below will increase the quality and effectiveness of your content significantly.

Step 1: Define Where You Can Win

Media companies, marketing agencies, and our own egos often lure us into the crazy idea of expanding our target market. I must have heard this type of sentiment a thousand times from otherwise thoughtful, intelligent people.

We do so in the name of economies of scale or because we fear missing out on revenue opportunities. Don’t do it. Focus, focus, focus. Start with a rigorous exercise of looking at your current customers for the solution you are trying to sell. Begin with qualitative intelligence-gathering. Talk to the best sales people, the product team, the post-sales team, and the sales engineers:

  • Who are your most profitable accounts and why?
  • Which accounts have the greatest longevity and why?
  • What do these accounts have in common?
  • What accounts are unprofitable and why?
  • How can we avoid them?

Then do quantitative analysis, ideally matching your customers to third party databases to add dimension to your profiles.

Share the findings with the most relevant stakeholders to get a consensus on the ideal customer profile. Define account characteristics. Break your market into two or three segments, based upon their potential value. If you can only afford to speak to one of the segments, talk to the most valuable one. (Often the market leaders, if you can win them over, will influence the rest of the market).

Please understand that your definition today will change tomorrow. So make this an annual exercise for every solution you sell. For new solution categories, you may need to have a running dialogue until you find the ideal customer profile, experimenting as you go. And of course, find different ways to test and optimize your messaging hypothesis.

For companies with multiple products and services, you’ll generally want to look for one of your solutions that can most readily open the door to your other products and services.

Find foot in the door solution for other things you sell

Microsoft, for example, started with tools for programmers initially. These attracted the most technically savvy people, a group with enormous influence over the next wave of early adopters.

Next, Microsoft created an operating system (well, Microsoft bought one and licensed it to IBM, to be perfectly accurate). The operating system created a platform for selling desktop productivity products like Word and Excel and their relationship with developers let them encourage those developers to build other desktop software and utilities.

There was enough critical mass to gradually expand from the desktop to the network and the applications on the system. Initially, the enterprise applications were BackOffice-focused but gradually became customer facing, like CRM Dynamics, Bing, and now LinkedIn. This sequencing idea is the essence of product strategy and a key to demand generation success.

Step 2: Understand Your Audience

Once you are clear on the kinds of accounts, you want to attract and the value you offer, it’s time to understand the decision dynamics for your solution in those accounts. While you will want to look at the entire path to purchase, let’s focus our attention on the top of the funnel:

Who is most likely to champion the idea?

Not all champions get to vote. You are really looking for one of those rare people inside an organization who can influence others. Many try. Few succeed. Think about the functional role, the attitudes, the personality type, the credentials, the likely beliefs, and so on. This persona is who you are speaking to. Even when your message reaches others in the company, as it probably will, they will often find this person for you. Let them know who to look for.

What events trigger interest?

Trigger events can be positive or negative (although, generally, people are far more motivated by pain-avoidance than by gain-attainment). These events can happen within a company or externally. They can happen on a day or over a long period of time.

The point is that those events often trigger companies into consideration for your solution. In many cases, these are problems your company can help address. You’ll want to understand what those trigger events are, like layoffs, leadership changes, new regulations, rapid growth, competitive encroachment, a round of VC funding, or employee turnover or customer churn.

You can then reference or otherwise leverage one or more such trigger events to help connect what your champion cares about to the possibility your solution might make a material difference. You can also research the prevalence of these trigger events in your target market to gauge the possible volume of demand that might exist.

Describing these trigger events clearly helps build for your prospect a bridge from what he or she understands to what he or she hasn’t considered.

What unconsidered needs can your solution address?

Generally, for people to change, they must feel the status quo is unsafe. And to do that, you must help them see what they do not see.

Jill Konrath in her excellent book, SNAP Selling, talks about “crazy busy” buyers. These are people who get so close to the day to day whirlwind of their jobs, they lose perspective. You want to help them see their situation with new eyes. This is the heart of the story you must tell.

To tell this story well, you really must understand the implications of these unmet needs.
Who is impacted by the status quo? What does doing nothing cost, both short term and over time?

If you can quantify the benefit financially, you will empower your champion with the universal language of money, a language that everyone understands.

To tell others in the organization about your solution, what key beliefs will the champion need to have?

You are not trying to get a champion to buy your solution at this point. You need your champion to begin to share your story enthusiastically with others.

To do so, she will need to believe a few things. She’ll have to believe your solution could make a big enough difference to warrant prioritizing your solution over any number of other things. Such an overarching belief often has some stepping-stone beliefs.

For example, I was just looking at a very cool software program (Conversica) that can apparently understand written email responses, including their tone and sentiment. So one stepping stone belief is that the AI engine can actually understand the nuances of the written language. Another is that my prospects won’t know they are not emailing a computer. A third might be that the program won’t inadvertently annoy my prospects.

What evidence can you present?

Again, you are not trying to win the sale here. You are only trying to earn enough commitment to move the prospect from their status quo to interest in having a conversation with your company.

Still, you must present sufficient evidence to make the promise you are making credible enough to warrant taking the time to take a deeper look at your solution. To do so, you will need to marshal sufficient evidence to address the key beliefs your champion must have, both about your solution and the viability of your company.

Ideally, you are getting most of this information through direct interviews and/or focus groups, augmented with simple surveys. Usually, 5-10 interviews will give you what you need. If the information you are hearing gets redundant, you’ll know you have talked to a sufficient number of people. One tip: talk to these individuals during the purchase process or shortly after that while the experience is top of mind.

Step 3: Clearly Articulate Your True Value

Duh! Right? And yet how often do you see words like “leading,” “exceptional,” “largest,” “greatest,” and other unbelievable, vague, vacuous claims? One reason social media has become so popular is that people want another source of information they can trust: information from their friends or really anyone but the vendor and their media conspirators.

Part of the problem is that there is a LOT of things you can say about your solution and your company. But verbosity is confusing and boring. And if you really research your market, you’ll have a far more to share than you will need at the top of the funnel.

To find your value, you need to look at your solution through an honest, competitive lens and through the eyes of your customer. When doing so, you are looking for something your ideal customer wants badly that your competition doesn’t have. If your customers don’t want it, it doesn’t matter. If your customers want it and your competitors can also provide it, you’ll be in a low margin commodity business. Instead, you are looking for your only-factors, the ones your customers care deeply about and that only your company can make.

If your customers don’t want it, it doesn’t matter. If your customers want it and your competitors can also provide it, you’ll be in a low margin commodity business. Instead, you are looking for your only-factors, the ones your customers care deeply about and that only your company can make.

This is another case of getting your key stakeholders in a room to really grapple with this problem and come to a consensus. Look for three areas where you stand out and then build your messaging and story around these three value positions.

Step 4: Define Your Objective

It’s important before you start to create content to consider your objective. It’s not to build your brand. That can certainly be something that happens as a by-product of your efforts, but it’s not the goal. The role of content at the top of the funnel is also not to generate clicks, traffic, inbound calls, or even leads, either. It’s also not to sell your product or service. That may be the endgame, but it’s not the objective at the top of the funnel.

I like to think of the objective as going to a party. Yes, you might secretly be hoping to meet the man or woman of your dreams, but you don’t go around asking someone who appeals to you to get married.

Rather, you’re just trying to spark a conversation, typically by being observant and interested in the other person. That’s the goal with demand generation. Show enough insight and interest to spark a conversation. Within the demand generation framework, each element must support that objective. If not, trim the fat, using your objective as a knife.

Step 5: Love Your Prospective Customers

This one may seem obvious, but there is a reason sales and marketing often have bad reputations in the public square. Loving your customers starts with being respectful and empathetic toward them. And that means being authentic and honest, even if your tone needs to be playful. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. To the best of your ability, you want to climb behind the eyes of your would-be champion and experience the world the way she does. The more deeply you connect with them, the more effective the story you will tell.

This connection to your audience will generally help you find the right tone and voice, just as it does with people in your personal life.

Of course, with these five steps, you still need to create the content and adapt the content to the most appropriate method(s) of contact.

You’ll also need to make sure that the content and messaging at the top of the funnel is congruent with what comes later on. But you’ll have a sound basis for breaking through the noise in the ever changing market because what you will offer will be rare, honest and true.

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