Tag Archives: Content marketing

How Do You Like My Tie?

There is an old joke about an egocentric sales guy rambling on and on about his life and success.  He sees the recipient of his boastful rant glazing over and says “But enough about me.  How do you like my tie?”  I was reminded of this as I read about a study conducted by the Online Marketing Institute, who teamed up with Forrester Research and the Business Marketing Association to understand how well B2B marketers gauge their content development skills and maturity.  The headlines aren’t so wonderful:

While 51% of B2B marketing leaders rate their content marketing practices as very mature, an overwhelming 85% fail to connect content activity to business value — and, as a result, fail to retain customers or win their long-term loyalty. In fact, when asked to look back at the past 12 months and rate the effectiveness of content marketing efforts, only 14% of those surveyed gave their content practices high marks for delivering value back to the business.

One wonders sometimes who exactly is in charge at these companies.  If 86% of the executives surveyed think they’re sucking at content marketing, what are they doing about it? 71% of surveyed marketers say their content features case studies or customer stories, but only 3% admit this is a primary focus of their efforts.  Hello?  How is this any different from the sales guy in the joke?

All marketing is about adding value and solving problems.  Hopefully everything you produce does both but it must do one or the other.  Obviously, as the study concludes, B2B marketers have more work to do when it comes to using content to consistently deliver a valuable exchange of information with prospective buyers.  That starts with a mindset to do just that and part of the process is evaluating what you’re producing in that context.  This last bit is the clearest indicator of that.  The study talks about how the content these businesses are producing:

Focuses on closing the deal, not on building relationships. While more than three-quarters of respondents say they frequently communicate to their customer base, only 5% make this a priority, proving that marketers are too focused on acquisition rather than long-term loyalty.

That’s the issue.  What are they (and you!) going to do about it?

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I Need To Know

I was reading about a study done by the Nielsen folks which measured how people are influenced by different sources of information.

Tom Petty

Since it’s Tuesday and we usually turn it into TunesDay, the song that popped into my head is Tom Petty‘s “I Need To Know.” OK, maybe not my best musical connection to a business point ever, but I think you’ll see why I chose it.

The Nielsen/inPowered MediaLab study measured the impact of product reviews by users, experts and brands to understand if one form provided a higher impact with consumers than another.  You can read about the study here.  The results show that expert content— credible, third-party articles and reviews—is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories. Frankly, the results gave me hope.  After all, many of the marketing tactics I see suggested by some of my less scrupulous peers seem not to have the sort of impact their advocates would suggest.  Advertising disguised as content, fake reviews, or even “unbiased” product information on the company website seem to have been sussed out and dismissed by consumers if one believes the data.  I particularly liked this:

The perceived partiality of the source was especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart. The third-party element was important to consumers: 50% indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website for an unbiased assessment of a product, and 61% were less likely to trust product reviews paid for by the company selling the product. Expert content can provide an unbiased and honest assessment of a product, particularly important during the final stage of purchase consideration.

There are cases such as with video game reviews where user comments and reviews are perceived highly.  Obviously someone who has played the game has the low-level of expertise needed to be reliable and trustworthy.  As the report I read states:

The report concludes by noting that, overall, the research suggests that there is a higher degree of trust from consumers when they are reading content from credible, third-party experts. This trust is demonstrated by the higher lift scores with regard to product familiarity, affinity and purchase intent and its perception of being highly informative and unbiased.

So what the song says is appropriate because consumers do need to know and do a lot of research to find out:

I need to know, I need to know
Cause I don’t know how long I can hold on
If you’re making me wait, if you’re leadin’ me on
I need to know

Even if the above refers to a romantic relationship and not to a purchase.  Then again, isn’t that sort of what a product purchase is?

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Ads Are Easy – Content Is Hard

For some reason many of the people with whom I spoke  yesterday had content creation on their minds.

Old AD (L1010566)

(Photo credit: Foread)

All three were former clients who wanted to understand the latest buzzword, content marketing.  As with the use of any term, I first wanted to understand what they thought the term meant.  As it turned out, they had widely differing definitions.  These ranged from what I’d call advertorial to what the industry does term “content marketing.”

My point of view is that brands have always been content creators.  Ads are content – their channel of distribution is paid media.  PR is content – it gets picked up in earned media.  Today, websites, social presences, and who knows what else by the time I’m done writing this (things DO change kind of quickly) are also content and are put out through channels brands own themselves.  I think, however, this is missing the point.

Customers want to be educated.  Sure, it’s nice to give them a laugh or a tear as many brands did during the Super Bowl, but the nature of marketing today is that ongoing conversation I’ve written about before.  Customers want smart brand representatives who can educated them and help to solve their problems when they arise.  However brands touch and audience, I think it needs to be less about the sale and a lot more about engagement.  That comes from an honest and open dialogue with the consumer, not by tricking them into reading a sales piece in the guise of a magazine article.  Posting fake reviews to enhance your brand does nothing except risk massive embarrassment when they’re discovered and sound a discordant note when real reviewers point out how the fake reviews bear no resemblance to reality.

Creating ads is relatively easy.  Everyone sees them as a brand message, a certain amount (and it’s tiny) of hyperbole is expected, and it’s clear something is being sold.  Creating content that educates and informs is much harder.  Maintaining a transparent and open social presence is as well.  That, however, is what marketing has become, at least for those brands that are in touch with their consumers.  Are you?

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The Content That Matters

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There has been a lot written about content marketing.

Some seers have even proclaimed 2014 as the year of content marketing, and as Google adjusts their search algorithms to make content more important in determining search rank, one can understand why “content” is on everyone’s lips here in digital business land.  Since I’m never one to miss a large bandwagon, let me jump right on to talk about the only content that matters.  I have a particular reason for doing so today.

We celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday today.  As I’ve written in past years on this occasion, I remember him and his struggles well from my childhood.  The quote that stuck is from the “I Have A Dream” speech about the importance of judging people by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin.  That is the content that matters – the ONLY content that really matters – as we do business.

What, for example, does it say about the character of those retailers who run sales tied to “the MLK event.”  What it says to me is that they are tone-deaf, as was the cognac brand that sent out an email with drink recipes “MLK Jr. would be proud of.”  Really?  This is not about Dr. King or his principles or his legacy.  It’s about a brand trying to sell something and is, in the word Dr. King’s daughter used to describe similar activities, “appalling.”  That describes the character of their content just as it does the content of their character.

I don’t know about you, but I try to do business with people, not brands.  There are restaurants and other businesses I frequent almost solely because I like and trust the people with whom I deal.  I hope that many of my clients have hired me not just for what and who I know but also because they have a sense of the business person I try to be.  You can be sure that many of the people with whom you do business are looking at you and your company in the same way.

A business’ success or customer service isn’t about the store; it’s about the person on the other side of the counter or the desk or who answers the phone.  The content of their character will determine the brand’s success or failure.  You can choose those people wisely and support them as they let the content of that character show.  You can choose to market as did the brands above which also reveals a lot about the content of brand’s character.  It’s the only content that matters.  What’s your choice?

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The Pandora’s Box Of Content

As we get to the end of the year, many people (myself included) use the leisurely pace of this week to reflect and/or plan.

Pandora's Box Side

(Photo credit: yum9me)

With that in mind, I think we should spend a bit of time reflecting on Pandora’s Box and how it relates to content.  As you remember, said box was said to have contained all the evils of the world.  Modern usage of the expression is more like the Butterfly Effect I’ve written about before – small things leading to major impacts.

The Pandora’s Box to which I’m referring today is that of native advertising.  I’ve written before about this topic as well, but as the pace of publishers to utilize sponsored content that’s made to look like editorial increases, I wanted to pause and reflect on it again.  As The Wall Street Journal reported

Spending on sponsored content is expected to grow 24% to $1.9 billion this year, a faster growth rate than for most other forms of digital marketing. Total digital advertising spending will total $42.3 billion this year, according to eMarketer.

In other words, roughly 5% of all digital ad spending will be on this form.  That’s a lot.  I’m old school – ads should be easily recognized as such.  That said, I have no problem with content put together by a sponsor and a publisher as long as the substance of that content is accurate.  For example, this blog could be considered an ad for my consulting practice.  That said, I go to some lengths to be sure that what I put up here on the screed is fact-based and not one-sided so that you can mind up your own minds.  An article on, say, the health benefits of french fries (good luck with that!) that exists solely because McDonald’s or Burger King commissioned it and seems like every other article on the web page or magazine or TV news report seems well over the foul line.

This Pandora’s Box is wide open.  Even the New York Times digital is accepting this kind of advertising.  Think is will be long before it isn’t 30 minute infomercials we see on TV but 2.5 minute “news updates” that use station talent?    I’m glad the IAB is working on guidelines and I’m glad the FTC is holding hearings.  Ultimately, however, it’s those of us who  are the product (it’s our eyeballs they’re after!) who need to weigh in loudly.  You agree?

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Curating Frustration

I realize yesterday might have seemed as if it was Foodie Friday since the topic was food related.

English: Steacie Science and Engineering Libra...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, Foodie Friday the 13th is today, and I’m going to focus on an unlucky site’s marketing today. While I’m not going to mention their name, I’ll say upfront that it’s a site I generally find incredibly helpful. They curate recipes and do so with beautiful photos. Their emails are just as pretty and generally quite useful. Which is why I’m calling them out today and hopefully making a business point in the process.

This morning’s email was about side dishes which will “compliment your holiday spread.”  Of the 21 photos they used to tease me to click through, four were latkes, one was a noodle kugel, and two involved challah.  Since Hanukah has been over for a couple of weeks, that “holiday spread” is long gone.  In fact, many of the other recipes in the collection were not really appropriate for a winter holiday at all.  Grilled potatoes?

My point is this.  If you’re curating content, you’re supposed to be picking the best content that applies to a particular subject.  Relevance is a big deal, as is how the content is organized and presented.  This site generally gets high marks for the latter two but when a third of what you’re presenting is appropriate for a holiday that’s long gone, you’ve failed.

You might be thinking “well, this isn’t an issue for me since we don’t curate content.”  I’d be surprised if that was true, dear reader.  Almost every business is in the content creation and/or distribution business these days, either of your own content or that of others which you think might be useful to your audience.  Email, social channels, and your own website (not to mention advertising!) are all places where you’re publishing.  Being relevant and useful are critical.  Organizing it in such a way that readers can slice and dice it as they like is important.  It’s all part of listening to your customers and continuing the conversation.

Giving someone a great recipe for grilled anything while the grill is covered in snow not only isn’t useful, it’s frustrating.  Hitting them up with the right content at the right time in the right channel with an easy way to take action should they so choose is magnificent.  Which will you choose to do?

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Much Ado About Much Ado

Over the weekend, we went to the movies (The Big Wedding, since you’re asking).

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

As we sat watching the previews of coming attractions, up came a trailer for the new Joss Whedon movie. It’s a comedy about two couples and their very different viewpoints on love and it’s filled with twists and turns and snappy dialog.  Here’s the thing:  it was written 400 years ago and yet it seems from the trailer that the script is the same.  “Much Ado About Nothing” was written by Shakespeare long before “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and yet the same guy (Whedon) can make both of them work.

As I sat watching, I was struck immediately by the fact that while the look is modern and the technology that’s delivering the “play” (digital projection) is quite state of the art, it’s the same Elizabethan language.  Which of course prompted a business thought.

More and more, brands and businesses are content producers.  I’m not sure Shakespeare ever thought of himself as such, but that’s what we’d brand him today.  We may think of what he produced as art but at the time it was often about commerce, so I don’t think of it as totally dissimilar.  What’s amazing is that not only has it survived but it has been reinterpreted across many different channels for centuries.  We saw Macbeth as a one-man show a couple of weeks ago and it worked as well as the times we’ve seen it with a full cast.

Here’s the thing: you probably don’t think of what you produce as having to hold up for 400 years.  I’m not Shakespeare did either but isn’t that a great goal?  Motion pictures didn’t happen for a few hundred years and yet this is at least the fifth film version of the script, each of which looks different but all of which remain true to Shakespeare’s vision.

Given the short-term mentality of much of media and business today, it’s easy to think about the next content cycle rather than the long term.  Isn’t it amazing what can happen when a little extra time and care are invested in creating something timeless?  Going viral indeed – for centuries!

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