Escape from Marketing Island

As marketers, it can be easy to feel like we exist on an island. To bury ourselves in our work and maintain an exclusive, almost laser-like focus on…well…our marketing. Because that’s what we do. The same can be said of salespeople – existing on their own island, maintaining their laser-like focus on…well…their sales. Because that’s what they do. But what if working together – building a bridge between those two islands – made both sides better?

Sales and marketing are often lumped together in terms of how a business operates, which makes the seas that can rise up between these two islands all the more surprising – and disappointing. Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, after all, and neither does sales.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Indeed, as this recent article helpfully reminds us, “by collaborating with sales reps during the content development process, marketers can create content resources that will better meet the needs of salespeople.” And, in turn, such collaboration means salespeople can help marketers more effectively create such content.

How? Well, as the same article explains, there tend to be six levels or degrees of personalization when it comes to content marketing. These cover the full spectrum, from generic (no personalization) content to lead-specific (highly personalized, one-on-one) content. Marketers can often see the most productive use of their time spent at the more generic end of the spectrum – delivering the most content to the most people – while salespeople often want to spend the majority of their time at the more personalized end of the spectrum – building and maintaining individual relationships with customers and prospects. How, then, can we bridge this divide?

For marketers, the key is to move further down the personalization spectrum. While true one-to-one content marketing isn’t always feasible or practical, making content more segment- and audience-specific can empower sales people by providing them with a marketing asset that’s more personalized and targeted.

Equally important is the ability of marketers to train, equip and support salespeople to either personalize existing content, or create individualized content for their end of the spectrum. “The conventional wisdom,” the article continues, “has been that salespeople should not be spending their time developing content.” There are certain types of content, however, that are best left for a member of the sales team to develop.

Salespeople can help marketers become more effective in developing more personalized and targeted content. And marketers can help sales people become more effective in developing content of their own in the right situations. This is where collaboration between sales and marketing – bridging those two islands – can be so valuable and profound.

Push and pull

We talk a lot about social media, content strategy and digital marketing ‘round these parts. And for good reason, of course; an active and engaging social presence, backed by a high-quality website, provide your audience a high-profile destination befitting of a leading brand like yours. This very important aspect of your overall marketing shouldn’t exist in a vacuum, however. After all, what good is a great destination if no one knows it exists – or how to find it?

In the marketing world, we call it having a healthy balance of “push and pull“. The “pull” comes from your destinations – those platforms you manage (website, social channels, etc.) The “push” is how you proactively connect with your audience, promote your pull presence and, ultimately, drive them there.

It was this article, in fact, that got us thinking about push and pull – and about ensuring that “push” in particular is a key component of your overall marking effort. The important question, then: What are some ways we can push awareness of our social media and digital presence and pull them to it? Here are a few for you to consider:

  • Email marketing. An incredible, outstanding example of which you’re reading right now! Odds are, you have an impressive database of email addresses for current customers, prior customers, vendors, suppliers, etc. Email marketing – developing and delivering an informative/education email on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, etc.) – is a great way to both demonstrate your company’s industry expertise and to drive them toward your social/digital presence.
  • Email marketing. Wait, what? Didn’t we just cover this? We did, but there’s also an easier way to use email to drive awareness of your social and digital presence – include it in your email signature. While, at first thought, it may not have the same impact as the email marketing discussed above, consider the cumulative effect of everyone in your organization including links to your social presence in their email signatures – and then how many emails you send on a daily basis. That can drive a lot of awareness.
  • Everything else. Do a deep, comprehensive audit of all the many different touchpoints you have with your current and prospective customers – business cards, print ads, signage, product packaging, on-hold messaging, etc. How and where can you drive awareness of your social/digital presence on any or all of them simply by adding links and/or logos?

From your own email marketing strategy to simple email signatures, there are a number of effective ways you can drive awareness of your social presence to your key audiences and pull them in. All it takes is a little push to get started.


Chief Executive Cheerleader

Much is discussed about the importance of brands identifying and engaging with key influencers – the prominent customers and other leaders that stand tall in their respective industries – and turning them into social advocates on behalf of its products and services. And for good reason – their support lends an authenticity to your marketing that is hard to produce otherwise. We so often cast our gaze outward when identifying these influencers, however, that we sometimes forget the most powerful ones may be right in front of us.

Creating brand ambassadors and advocates out of our own employees offers significant upside for brands. After all, as this column recently reminded us, employees are a company’s most valuable and important asset. Beyond that, however, they are often regarded as its most trusted influencers.

At the same time, enabling employees to become brand advocates is not without its risks and potential pitfalls. To ensure employees are not just enabled but empowered to act as social advocates, marketers need to make sure employee advocates:

  • Know the rules. Establish an official social media policy for anyone and everyone who may represent the brand in any capacity via social media, and make sure everyone clearly understands it.
  • Know the story. It stands to reason that employee advocates should clearly know your brand’s voice and personality to ensure consistency of voice across all communications and touchpoints.
  • Know the game plan. Educate employee advocates on your marketing strategy – especially the role social plays in it – so they have objectives and goals in mind when developing content and engaging with audiences.
  • Are supported. Creating and/or curating high-quality content that reflects positively on your brand ensures employees are armed with the resources necessary to be consistent, compelling and sustainable in their activity.

The thought of ceding control to employee advocates can understandably make some marketers nervous. Done carefully and with proper planning and preparation, however, turning employees into social story-tellers can be a powerful, long-term marketing tool.

Can we be friends?

For companies of all sizes, a successful social media presence is predicated on understanding your audience. It’s not enough to understand your audience, however. You also have to grow it.

First, an IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE: Growing the number of likes or followers should not be a strategic objective in and of itself, of course. And when it comes to audience, quality is just as important as quantity.

That being said, you should should always think about growing your social audience on a consistent basis. The more people you engage with overall, it stands to reason, the more successful you’ll be at meeting your strategic objectives and growing the bottom line.

How, then, do you grow your audience? How can you effectively increase your likes, followers, reach and, most importantly, engagement? As this recent study shows, there are myriad ways for companies to increase audience. Below, we highlight some of the most effective ways, listed in order from easiest to, well, less easy.

  • Ask. Making sure your audience is aware of your social presence and then asking them to join you there can be surprisingly simple and effective! The real work is in identifying all the external touchpoints you have with customers – email signatures, product packaging, website, etc. – and then ensuring it’s easy to find and connect with you socially.
  • Entice. Running periodic product giveaways and prize promotions can also be an effective way to drive up the size of your audience in short order. It’s keeping them there after the promotion is over that becomes more difficult, yet so important.
  • Entertain. We’ve talked before about the value of humor in your social presence. Whether it’s sharing/repurposing widely popular themes or finding your own funny bone, humor is often the quickest way to an audience’s heart. This works for inspirational content as well.
  • Educate. Content is king for a reason – it may not be easy working your way up to the throne, but it sure is worth it. As the study mentioned above shows, nearly 80 percent of brands say producing useful content is the most effective way for them to attract customers to their social media presence.

The best approach to growing your audience, of course, is a healthy balance of all of the above, underscoring the importance of a living, breathing content strategy. Growing your audience is not the goal itself, but the process can certainly make you more effective in achieving your overall marketing goals.


All apologies

Company apologies are never easy. From mea culpas to individual, disgruntled customers to worldwide “whoopsies!” for major blunders or scandals (hello, VW and BP!), the company apology is a treacherous road for brands to navigate. Done poorly, they can cause companies to come off as callous and indifferent – or, even worse, open them up to excessive liability and legal action. Done right, however, they can also be an opportunity.

We’ve been thinking about this more and more as the VW scandal in particular continues to expand. While that one is quickly reaching the level where no amount of apologizing will atone for the damage done, it’s the exception to the rule. For the vast majority of company miscues calling for an apology, an effective utilization of “our bad” can turn be a unique chance to humanize your brand – and, as a result, strengthen the connection your customers have with it.

So what makes for the right kind of “we were wrong?” Generality speaking, a successful apology will be based on these tenets:

  • Be honest. This should seem obvious, no? And yet, many are the examples where a crisis can’t be contained because the company wasn’t fully and completely forthright in its scope from the outset. (VW is a glaring example of this unfolding in real-time.) Damage can be contained more effectively if information doesn’t continue to drip out slowly at irregular intervals.
  • Be genuine. An apology should have just the right amount of emotional quality to it. It should be heartfelt and feel authentic.
  • Be brief. Internally, make sure you know everything about the issue at hand. Externally, be direct and to the point. You can be honest and transparent while only sharing the most relevant details of an issue.
  • Be positive. The best kind of apology puts the transgression in perspective while pivoting toward the positive features and benefits of a particular product or service.

The path to a proper company apology is full of potential potholes, to be sure. Handled thoughtfully and thoroughly, however, a company can make sure it’s not sorry it said sorry.


Search mission

For marketers, Facebook does a lot of things well. One thing it doesn’t do well for anyone, however, is search. Using the search function to actually find anything of value on Facebook – especially anything outside one’s own network of friends, family and page likes – has long been an exercise in futility for most, if not all, users. All of this all should change for the better very soon, as Facebook recently announced some big updates to its search function – and they could be of great help to marketers on the site.

Here’s the most important feature of SearchFYI, as Facebook is calling its new and improved tool: now, search results include posts from the entire Facebook universe, which is more than two trillion posts to date. Users will now be able to see search results across the entirety of content on Facebook, making it more of a true, Google-like search engine within the platform’s walled-off world.

Will this be a good thing for marketers? Absolutely. How and why? Well, that remains to be seen, especially as SearchFYI is just getting up and running. Even if it’s real implications for marketers aren’t fully clear just yet, SearchFYI does offer some immediate opportunities and reminders:

  • Content is king (forever and always, amen). As if you needed another reminder. Knowing your Facebook content will now be viewable to all users should emphasize having a solid content strategy and ensuring your page content is relevant, valuable and targeted.
  • Conversations in the key of life. With access to the full Facebook universe, marketers should be able to get a fuller, more comprehensive picture of conversations taking place around the keywords and phrases important to them. This includes keywords for their own brand/products/services, of course, but can also also include keywords for competitors, industry topics, thought leaders, etc.
  • One big ol’ happy focus group. Opening up all of Facebook to search gives marketers access to an amazing amount of input, feedback, insights, complaints, etc., about their products, services and brand. It will be ongoing and in real-time, making it the best kind of focus group you could imagine.
  • Facebook is still really, really important. Well, duh. This seems obvious, but it reinforces Facebook as a core foundation of just about any social media strategy for marketers.

A stronger search function on Facebook will not only help marketers be more successful on the platform; if they utilize it correctly, it can also help them be more successful marketers all-around and across all touchpoints.


Burn it down

Social and digital marketing can often feel like a constant game of catch-up, especially if we feel like we “got in the game” late. We do something because we see competitors do it. We create presences on platforms because someone said we should, and we dive in and start posting without any sense of long-term strategy or overall objectives and goals.

We maintain what we do because the alternative – blowing the whole thing up and starting from scratch – is far too scary.

But should it be?

Sometimes, blowing your strategy up and starting from scratch is the best thing possible for brands. (This great piece got us thinking more about the topic.) To be sure, we’re not recommending you delete your brand profiles across the board. What can make a world of difference, however, is taking a step back and starting from the beginning when it comes to your strategy. Stop chasing content ideas. Stop making it up as you go. Stop keeping up with the Joneses. Instead, stop and start from scratch.

Your next question, most likely, is: what does that mean, exactly? It means taking a clean slate and rethinking everything about your social / digital presence and, most importantly, emerging with a true vision and long-term strategy.

To build out your strategy, be sure to address and answer the following issues:

  • Audience. Who are we talking to? Who else are we talking to?
  • Objectives. Why are we talking to them? What do we want to accomplish with our social / digital efforts? How will we define and determine success – or, conversely figure out what isn’t working and needs to adapt?
  • Lineup. Who’s the pilot and co-pilot of this ship? What non-marketing staff will be available as SMEs and resources?
  • Operations. What is the standard operating procedure for planning, producing and sharing content? How often do we want to post? Who owns the calendar and schedule?
  • Integration. How can we ensure our social / digital efforts are integrating with our overall marketing?

It may sound overwhelming at first, and it can require some heavy lifting at the outset, but reaching comprehensive, consensus answers to these questions lays the crucial foundation for true, long-term strategy. But done right, it can make your team and its output refreshingly efficient, effective and successful.

And it may seem like the only thing left behind when you blow up your current approach is a fair amount of scorched earth. Instead, what you’ll find is a blank canvas – ready for your strategic work of art.

Handle with care

Content, as they say, is king. (Well, at least we like to say it.) Branded content done well serves a very valuable role smack dab in the middle of the sales funnel and offers a ipadunique opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and authenticity in a non-promotional way. As with most things, brands must proceed with caution – content may be king, but it can easily turn your brand into a jester.

Marketers have “finally woken up to the power of content marketing,” proclaims a very smart and thought-provoking recent column in Advertising Age. Indeed, a recent study showed that 59 percent of marketers plan to increase their investment in content marketing in the coming year. (Here’s a helpful definition of content marketing.)

As more and more marketers move into the space, however, more and more opportunities for misuse and abuse of the medium arise. Especially challenging is fighting the urge to “stand out in a crowd” as the amount of branded content grows – this usually manifests itself as content that goes from smart and valuable to content that is overtly and awkwardly self-promotional. “If we simply develop content because we think it’s new, improved, quicker and easier than previous tactics,” the Ad Age column argues, “we’re doomed to get the same disappointing results that we got from banner ads.”

What to do, then, to avoid your content marketing turning into glorified banner ads?

  • Respect the process. Content marketing is more than just developing content. Research and analysis play a big part in it as well. The process of effective content marketing can take time, but it’s time invested and, ideally, well spent. It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
  • Quality, not quantity. Less is more when it comes to effective content marketing. Build and maintain a schedule you can realistically stick to. One piece of quality content every two weeks is better than two pieces of low-quality content every week. Focus on value, not volume.
  • Curation, not just creation. Part of content marketing is discovering and sharing quality content from other sources. These could be industry journals, trade publications or other thought leaders. Sharing such high-quality content – with your own insights or analysis added in – can often provide as much value for your audience as your own content.

Yes, lots of marketers are talking about and getting into content marketing. No, that doesn’t mean you should automatically do it – or that it’s easy. Proceed with caution into the world of content marketing – with the knowledge that – done right – it provides great value for your overall marketing strategy and organizational success.




This just in

Where do you get your news? Like, really get your news? Think about it for a second – is it through traditional outlets (print, TV, radio, etc.)? Or are you part of the increasing social_media_desknumber of Americans who, according to a new Pew Research study, get their news from somewhat surprising sources?

Specifically, the study, which surveyed more than 2,000 adults age 18 and older, showed that almost 2/3 of people (63 percent) claim both Facebook and Twitter as primary sources of news for them. These social networks are becoming more than just places to keep up with friends and family; they’re now places to keep up with the world.

Beyond demonstrating the shifting definition of news and underscoring the ongoing challenges traditional news outlets face in this rapidly evolving landscape, the study offers some important reminders and insights for brands when it comes to their own activity on Facebook and Twitter:

  • You are a news source. That may seem kind of scary at first, but it’s actually a marketer’s dream. Remember: You are already an expert in your industry, and sharing industry news, trends and developments with your audience provides a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and authenticity. Sharing with and helping to explain industry news to your audience makes you a news source yourself.
  • Your content strategy is important. If your content mix right now consists of almost exclusively self-promotional posts, you’re doing it wrong. The easiest way to formulate an effective content strategy is to follow the “rule of thirds,” which says 1/3 of your social content should share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry. Again, this makes you a news source for your audience in the process.
  • Your social activity should provide value. While it may not cost anything to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, you are asking your audience to invest their time with you, and that’s no small thing. Ensuring that your content mix includes helpful information, clear expertise and insightful analysis in turn ensures that you’re providing a return on that investment.

Breaking news! If your brand is active on Facebook and/or Twitter, you are a news source. And if you follow some basic rules when it comes to your content strategy, you should be very excited about this particular piece of news.

The state of things

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is one of Silicon Valley’s most legendary and prestigious venture capital firms, having helped give rise to some of the largest and most famous digital_icons_lgcompanies in the world, including Google, Twitter, Amazon, Spotify and Uber.

So when leaders at KPCB talk about the future of the Internet, people tend to listen.

And, as she has for the past several years, KPCB partner Mary Meeker did just that, giving her hotly anticipated and widely read annual “Internet Trends” at the end of May. Even though her presentation – all 196 slides of it – is almost overwhelmingly comprehensive and wide-ranging in its topics, there are several trends it touched on that should be of particular interest to marketers, even if they’re not all that surprising:

  • Ecommerce keeps moving to mobile. Our on-demand culture is meeting head-on with our increasingly mobile culture, meaning brands have to get increasingly sophisticated in order to make their mobile shopping experience as simple as possible.
  • The death of email (again). Proclaiming email overwhelming, too cumbersome and, as a result, on its deathbed is nothing new, of course. It’s just that there’s more and more evidence this is the case – take the explosion of internal communications and collaboration apps like Slack.
  • Users generating content in droves. The explosion in smartphones makes it easier for people to create content on the go and share with their networks. The challenge – a perpetual one – for brands is to monitor, capture and share high-quality content, which gets more and more difficult as the number of content-sharing platforms continues to grow.
  • Speaking of content, a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to writing, millennials are all like, “whatever.” It’s no coincidence that the explosion of visually driven social networks – Vine, Snapchat, Instagram – has come as millennials came online en masse over the past several years. So it’s important for brands – especially ones with younger audiences – to understand that content isn’t just the written word anymore. Indeed, it’s often anything but.

You can view the full report here – as always, it’s a deep dive and very educated guess into what the future holds, especially for marketers.