13 Ways to Adjust Your Content Marketing Dial

If you are like me, every year you set good intentions with regard to your health (you know the drill: eat right, exercise, and drink water). What happens? Life gets in way. But don’t give up. While the calendar might read March, it isn’t too late to make changes.

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It’s 2013 and HB is blogging the 13th. We recommend using the 13th of each month as a trigger to assess, reset, and change direction if necessary. I can’t help with your health commitments, but there’s always time to adjust your content marketing dial. Share, debate, and add to these 13 ways to keep your content fresh.

  1. Be bold. I routinely hit my Sunday spin class, but struggle to try new moves. Explore creative and unconventional approaches this month. Take an action today that will motivate you to get outside your comfort zone.
  2. Use authentic stories. What shows success? A success story. Go beyond publishing a quote on your web site. Provide your customers an easy-to-engage outlet to profess and help share their love for your brand.
  3. Less about you. Successful thought leadership programs position you as an expert in an area that supports your key product or service. Rather than tout specific features and benefits, the cogs in your content marketing wheel must communicate that you are an industry leader that prospects and customers want to work with, stat.
  4. Color outside the lines. Between our professional and personal lives we all have an extensive network of contacts. Find a smart, useful way to pull more of your personal contacts into your business world.
  5. Invest in mobile. Period.
  6. Know your reach. Do you truly understand the catalysts that influence your customers’ purchasing decisions at every stage of the experience life cycle? Establish touch points from discovery through engagement to create mavens for your brand.
  7. Set metrics. I aim for eight glasses of water a day. Having a specific number in mind helps me envision the end. Keep a close eye on what works and what doesn’t and course correct with light speed.
  8. Know the answer to “why?” Be certain that your customers truly understand why your product or service is relevant to them, and tailor your messaging to fit each audience. Go deeper than the “it’ll protect your bottom line” pitch. How will a prospect’s decision to go with your solution change his/her life?
  9. Check out the competition. Seeing the cool things that others do at the gym gets me going. Don’t plan on mimicking the competition, but keep an eye on those ahead of you, and behind, to understand where you fall in the industry landscape. Studying the competition enables you to identify opportunity gaps that may work to your advantage.
  10. Be habit-forming. Research shows that new habits take two to three weeks to form. Give yourself the flexibility and time to build profitable habits.
  11. Get a buddy. In my weight-loss efforts I often seek group support via my network of friends and family. Consult a colleague or your team to provide an additional layer of clarity to your strategy.
  12. Build the muscle. One trip to the gym won’t give you big guns. It takes time to get it right. Make a commitment to working on your marketing muscle every day.
  13. Fill in the blank. This list is just a start. Tweet your #13 to me at @perrinmcc.

The Marketing Time Capsule – What has a place in the future? What should remain buried in the past?

In middle school I was given the easiest homework assignment ever – write a letter to my future self.

Years later, the summer before I went off to college, I received the note from the middle school me. With no recollection of what I wrote, I opened the letter to find myself gushing about my favorite boy band (no shame in admitting it, I was a huge ‘N Sync fan), my best friends and family, and what college I planned on attending.

I laughed when I read the questions I asked myself. Are Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake still together? Do you still hang out with your best friend Rachael? Where are you going to college?

Now that I’m a professional in the marketing and communications field, I re-read my letter through a different lens, and made a few conclusions my grade school self would not have thought of:

  • Trends don’t last forever. It’s still hard to conceive that ‘N Sync no longer rules the airways.
  • Relationships matter. Friends and family are as critical to me now as they were years ago. Even my best friend from more than a decade ago is still my best friend now.
  • Predicting the future is hard. My life and career path could have gone in so many different directions. The influences that brought me to where I am today were unknown to me, and I’m sure a different decision or two in the past would have changed me (though I’m very happy where I’m at now)!

FutureM will debate the future of marketing as we perceive it today. Topics range from digital marketing, mobile technology and social media measurement, as well as debating whether or not traditional marketing as we know it is dead.

But do we really know what the future of marketing holds? What are current hot marketing trends that will be obsolete in five, 10 or 20 years? Which marketing practices have staying power? Advertising? PR? Digital? All of the above? Or none of them? And what does the future hold that we just can’t accurately predict right now?

Share your thoughts below. Maybe your idea(s) will become a discussion topic at HB’s UnPanel at FutureM. Or maybe it will go into some sort of marketing time capsule that some future version of ourselves can enjoy years from now.

What From 2012 Will be Celebrated in 2112?

As a Boston-area resident and worshipper at Fenway Park, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, I find myself acutely aware of anything that dates back to 1912 (the list includes LL Bean, the Girl Scouts and Oreos).

Luminaries born in 1912 include Julia Child, Jackson Pollock, and most importantly in my world, the patriarch of our four-generation family, Grampy Joe.

What will citizens celebrate in 2112 that dates back to this year? Will it be…
• 50 Shades of Grey? Please no.
• Diet Dr. Pepper 10?
• Or perhaps the final Twilight movie?

It takes more than a useful or desirable product to build a brand. Key ingredients include:
1. Consistent messaging,
2. An understanding of your target audience and its persona, and
3. Customer engagement.

What do you think made LL Bean and Oreos such strong brands (besides the warm boots and scrummy cookies)?

At FutureM this month, marketing and technology innovators will contemplate the future of Marketing (yes, with a capital M). While conversation may focus on what Marketing’s future will look like in five years, seeds will be planted for brands to thrive for the next century. Join the group to explore how marketers today integrate traditional marketing, digital marketing, R&D and product development in exactly the right way to create brands that will last until 2112.

HB’s UnPanel is your opportunity to have a voice in this future. What makes today’s brands successful and what will resonate a 100 years from now?

The Healthy Mind: Effectiveness Through Listening In and Listening Out

Online Video Marketing

If a word is worth a word, and a picture is worth a thousand words, a video may be worth a million.

That may be an exaggeration, but if done correctly, an online video asset can take a very complex challenge and drastically simplify the message. Many technology companies, like EMC, have been early adapters of video marketing. Attention spans may be dwindling… but if a user’s interest peaks while delivering a simple message, the creator/designer has done his/her job.

The first few seconds of a website visit are critical in providing a solution to a problem. An effective video can create opportunities for discussion about a company and its products.

Recently, we did exactly that with a video we created alongside EMC. We were tasked to tell the story and generate awareness about ease of use of UIM with Vblocks – an exceedingly complex message that needed to be simplified.

Updating Mad Men: The Focus Group

This week Mad Men featured a staple of the media world: the focus group. Whether it’s a telephone survey, like the call I received from Nielsen this weekend, or grabbing a group of people off the street, the focus group is a key part of any media outreach campaign. Before understanding the messaging and positioning that world work for the whole, you must first undersand what will work for a small, carefully selected group.

The women of the Mad Men focus group

But today the focus group is open to everyone with a search window. You can open up Twitter and be greeted by a flood of information or check out the LinkedIn groups to find out what business folks are truly feeling. You can even enter traditional forums and hear the complaints and concerns of thousands of people. However, like the PhD who is running the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce focus groups, people need a guide to understand what they’re reading. It’s very easy to get lost in the “Rats Nest” of social media.

In fact, sometimes you need to entirely dismiss what you’re reading or, in other cases, provide additional emphasis. I was quoted in Mashable saying that the social media realm offers imperfect data. The point is, just a few numbers will never tell you enough of a story, you need to understand the context of the person conveying the information, online and off.

Coming back to focus groups for a moment, how they are compiled affects the information you glean from them. In Mad Men the group was made up of young, unmarried women. In fact, just before grabbing the last unmarried secretary an older secretary commented that she wasn’t wanted in the room because she was, in fact, older and married.

The results of the session were that women want to be beautiful to attract a man, according to the doctor who ran it, but it could have turned out differently with the older women in the mix. Of course, this is where Pond’s finds itself today, with an older, more mature demographic. The eventual conclusion that women are simply looking to be married and that’s why they use beauty products was rejected by top Mad Man Don Draper, who noted that putting out a year’s worth of messaging would change the conversation.

In the social media world, people put out information for a reason. When looking at social media for market intelligence you must ask yourself “why did this person say what they’re saying.” Otherwise you’re only getting half a story. Social search tools can help you find information and many social CRM tools exist to help you get graphs, charts and numbers to show certain trends, but there is so much more available within the social stream.

Over here at Fresh Ground we have started working with customers on a social intelligence service. That is, we look at interesting pieces of information, put them in context and then distribute that information to the appropriate internal audiences. This is how we help our clients dig up everything from sales leads to competitive intelligence.

So what would Pond’s do differently today? Well, first they’d have a lot more information about their target demographic. Then they would use that information to understand the individuals who visit their site. If they wanted to try out new messages they’d probably do a bit of A/B testing on their site to see what works. They may also test certain messages in certain demographic areas, either through online advertising, carefully located display ads or buying air time in specific programs. They’d also dig into the social media intelligence to find out what people in their targeted demographics are discussing, then find ways into those conversations.

And hopefully, when they’re done, no one ends up crying or throwing heavy objects at Don Draper.

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Manish Mehta on the Nuclear Option: Fresh Ground #15

A little less that two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on how big and small sized companies made the culture shift necessary to realize success in the world of the truly social company. The panelists were Andrew Sinkov of Evernote, and Manish Mehta, one of the original founders of Dell.com and VP of social media and community there.

Due to the #ashtag incident, the original keynoter, Neville Hobson, was unable to attend the event, and Manish was asked to step up and present, which he did. His story, in which he draws parallels between the rise of social media and the rise of nuclear power, was provocative and thoughtful, and we’re including an excerpt of it as this week’s Fresh Ground podcast. You can catch the full audio on the Fresh Ground blog.

The keynote will also be featured in an upcoming For Immediate Release Sessions & Speakers episode.

So here are some excerpts from the first part of Manish’s presentation on measuring social media and business value:

Listen Now:

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Our opening music is “D.I.Y.” by A Band Called Quinn from the album “Sun Moon Stars” and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.

Social Media DNA: Does Your Company Have It?

LaunchCamp divided pretty easily into two camps, companies and executives who:

  1. Understand social networking technologies inherently; and
  2. Know they need to do something, but are not sure what.

This divide isn’t new and frankly, it’s not going to end any time soon. In the past I’ve been asked to design training programs only to find that some people within an organization understand social technologies and concepts very well and wanted to move on beyond the basics. Then there are those who are still figuring out how to sign up for a Twitter account or maybe have just dipped their toe into Facebook.

With this type of audience one size never fits all.

But for LaunchCamp it wasn’t just a division among individuals as Isis Maternity Community Manager Cindy Meltzer noted during our recent conversation. It could also be felt in corporate culture.

During the startup panel it became apparent that most tech-based companies being founded today are steeped in social networking tools. Not just because the founders are young, in fact their ages run the spectrum, but because the genesis for their ideas come from first understanding social networking. In other words: the aspect of marketing that takes conversation into account is built in. It’s part of their DNA.

Jules Pieri, CEO of the Daily Grommet

Take the example of the Daily Grommet. When moderator David Beisel asked about how much each company spent on launch marketing, the answer came back as nothing. Though, as Jules will tell you, it was nothing EXTRA. Frankly, marketing is baked into the idea of “Citizen Commerce,” which is the idea that the customers drive the direction of the products featured each day. This isn’t a one-way system of “we produce, you buy” but community conversation of “we find what you want.”

Since the community members are, by nature, excited by the products they’re more likely to take action and talk about them.

The same goes for Runkeeper, which factored sharing right into the product. From the start the idea wasn’t only to use a mobile device to track your routes and save information about you, but to share that information with your friends. By doing that you are, in fact, sharing the product you’re using. If friends want to share back they need to get that product too. The viral nature is built in, not tacked on later.

By contrast I hear from companies that have traditional business models and are looking for a way to build social networking into their marketing programs. This isn’t a bad thing (in fact, it’s great) but it’s also just the start.

To truly engage in this world each company must look beyond their marketing departments and find their communities, then use the tools to engage them. After all, that’s how new companies are finding their way.

Lee Sherman on Distributed Communities: Fresh Ground #5

In episode 5 of the Fresh Ground Podcast, Chuck Tanowitz talks with Lee Sherman, who runs the MintLife Blog. Lee brings over 20 years of editorial experience to Mint, including stints at Quicken.com and Worth magazine.

Chuck and Lee discuss how to create a content-driven marketing strategy, as well as the and differences and similarities between journalism and marketing. Lee shares some key numbers around Mint’s content-driven marketing strategy, and how to avoid thinking in terms of technological silos.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“I think that having a journalistic mindset has allowed us to create content that is compelling, and that leads to traffic, and traffic leads to conversions…”

“[At] the end of the day, we’re a software company, and we’re trying to get people to sign up and use a personal finance application… [You] always have to [keep] that in mind, but … building an audience through compelling content was key to our strategy….”

“[While] we’re very careful about protecting people’s privacy … we know a lot about how people are spending their money, and we’ve produced a number of infographics which illustrate trends in consumer spending, and those things tend to get picked up by other publications.”

“We would not have a publication called ‘MintLife’ if it didn’t actually bring in users.”

“[We] initially were thinking of building a community into the blog, but one of the learnings that came out of our discovery process … [was the] notion of distributed community…. Because of how people navigate to our content, the truth is that the conversation about our content is really taking place outside of Mint.com. [It’s] really taking place on Digg, on Facebook, on Twitter.”

“[We] embraced the notion of distributed community, and started to look at ways to bring the conversation into the blog. We haven’t fully gone down this road yet, but it’s a direction that we’re going to continue to go to, and there are tools like Backtype [and] Facebook Connect [to make this possible].”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

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Our opening music is “D.I.Y.” by A Band Called Quinn from the album “Sun Moon Stars” and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.