4 Ways Marketers Can Learn From a Journalist’s Approach to Content Planning

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media-journalist-content-marketing

“Be the media” isn’t just a buzz phrase. It’s a live process and philosophy that brings in leads and moves products and services. It’s the concept of content as sales staff. It’s “write it and they will come.” OK, so I got ahead of myself with that last one. It’s not quite that simple.

As marketers have moved to content to help tell their stories that draw in customers, they have brought journalists in to help with the storytelling.  Now that many marketers and journalists are working side by side, they have developed similar processes and have begun to merge cultures. They are finding common ground, overlapping and crossing career paths.

Here are a few areas in which I think that content marketers can learn from journalists:

Plan ahead, but be ready to adapt

In journalism there is a balance between the editorial calendars and the calendars used on the advertising side. Advertising managers are the ones planning farther ahead. In newspapers especially, the amount of ads sold paves the way for the amount of news told.

Content marketers could benefit from thinking more like the editorial side than the advertising side. For example, what if the opportunity to attend an event came up and you were able send members of your team to live blog 10 posts over four days. It would be a shame to turn down that opportunity simply because you already have your editorial calendar planned for the month. Don’t get me wrong, editorial calendars are the backbone of entire marketing campaigns and programs and are essential for success. They just have to be flexible – and sometimes shorter.

Allow time for your audience’s appetite for content to shape your editorial planning. Be ready to produce, publish, measure, plan and optimize as you go.

Ask “why do I care?”

When worked as a managing editor at a newspaper, one of the first things I did was make every reporter answer this question before writing a story: “Why do I care?” I added those four words to the slug line of every story on the editorial calendar. If a reporter couldn’t answer that question to my satisfaction then the story wasn’t approved.

As marketers, we need to ask ourselves the same question. Why do your readers (buyers) care? If you’re producing content because you’re missing a hole in your calendar, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. Marketers, like reporters, need to produce content that is relevant, that answers questions, and that moves a conversation or an issue (or a buying decision) forward.

Keep a post in your pocket

An editor once shared with me some newsroom advice: Always have a story in your pocket. Chances are, as a reporter, something was bound to happen that would interfere with a story I was writing on deadline. Maybe a source didn’t get back to me, a photo option didn’t come through, or a story just didn’t turn out to be as interesting as I had thought. In that case, it saved everyone a lot of trouble if I had a second story already in the works.

This advice has saved me in content marketing as well. I  recommend always having a post in your pocket, a blog post that is evergreen, yet relevant and nearly ready to go. When a post from a contributor falls through, then you have one ready. When your own scheduled post just doesn’t come together in time, then you have another one on hand.

Check the weather

The reason why TV news runs the weather forecast toward the end of the broadcast is because they know it will keep people watching. In the marketing sense, you need to also be looking at the weather, measuring the industry atmosphere and current conditions. Know what it is that people want to read about and what they’ll be talking about tomorrow.

For example, Mark Schaefer published this blog post on Tuesday, the day that President Obama presented the State of the Union address. It’s no secret that by tying the phrase “State of the Union” to the phrase “State of the Nation” in the blog post Mark helped pique interest in the post (which in the interest of full disclosure, is for Dell, a TopRank Marketing client.) Tying what is going on in your content with current events can help make your content timely, attractive and more sharable.

As far as literally checking the weather, well … that doesn’t hurt either. For example, here’s a story about a business that used the weather as a reason to create a relevant marketing message: I happened to learn that my kids’ schools were opening late because of a snowstorm a few weeks ago from the Twitter account of a car wash in town. Seriously. Not from the schools, the news alerts or my kids (I heard from all those sources eventually) but from the car wash. It doesn’t get much more useful than that. I don’t know who runs their account, but they’re worth a follow as far as car/pet wash accounts go.

Plan around themes

You do this already by marrying your editorial calendar to your buyer’s purchase cycle, but make sure you’re getting the most of your themes. Jason Miller of LinkedIn (another TopRank Marketing client) likes to talk about Big Rock Content — content that is both a larger project and a heavier topic of focus.

Journalists do this all the time. When a big event comes to town, news teams get the most readership out of it as they can, because they know it’s a current, hot topic. If you’ve ever been to Minnesota during State Fair season, you’ll know what I mean. The State Fair leads news broadcasts for weeks leading up to, then during, then after the event. If something in your community of readers is a big deal, then make the most of it.

Thinking like a journalist is an imperative marketing mindset. Having an adaptable plan, being aware of current events and planning around themes and topics that your audience cares about will enable you to create content that is relevant and meaningful to buyers who are looking for solutions.

 

Image: Shutterstock


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January 22nd 2015 blogging, Online Marketing

Traditional Media for Content Marketing: Pros, Cons, Examples and Best Practices

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Traditional-Media-content-marketing

How many times has traditional media been pronounced dead in the past decade? We’ve lost count, right? While there is no denying that TV, newspapers and radio have lost a ton of ground to digital, the fact of the matter is traditional media still matters. Even to digital marketers.

In fact, some marketers are finding that traditional media is a becoming a great platform for engaging buyers. Consider brands like Doritos, Coca-Cola and others that are asking for consumers to submit short video clips via their company websites and social media channels. Those clips are curated into commercials that are airing during major events like the SuperBowl and the Academy Awards. In fact, 20% of ads in Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 included some form of crowdsourcing from major brands like Coca-Cola, Audi, Doritos, Pizza Hut and others. The incentive to participate in these contests is big for consumers willing to give up names and multiple forms of contact information just to take part.

Could digital marketers completely do that without the “traditional media” of television? Absolutely not. While some have been quick to pronounce the death of traditional media, more savvy marketers have instead asked, “how can we use this media better?”

The same goes for native advertising and sponsored content that appears in newspapers and newspaper websites from New York Times to Washington Post to the LA Times.

Traditional Media Pros:

  • Traditional media is a trusted source. By including trusted media outlets in your media mix, you can help elevate your brand.
  • Traditional audiences come pre-segmented. Want to reach your B2B audience? Your local paper’s business section is where they’re likely reading.
  • It’s more affordable than ever. While the demise of traditional media has been greatly exaggerated, the fact is that there are ad revenue issues and deals to be made.
  • It is always there in some form. If billboard ads along a certain route have drawn the attention of your target market, chances are that billboard is still there and will still reach a lot of the same people.

Traditional Media Cons:

  • The numbers aren’t what they used to be. Daily newspaper readership continues to fall, according to The Pew Research Center. Around 6.5% of households nationwide have cut the cable cord.
  • There are problems with reach. Your media buyer may tell you that on average 2.5 people read every newspaper, but how likely is that?
  • As more marketers shift to roles with digital companies — software, agencies, online service providers — fewer customers are coming from traditional media ad buys.
  • Forms of traditional media has a hard time penetrating some demographics. When is the last time you heard a millennial talk about that awesome newspaper ad?

What Marketers are Saying:

“Most prognosticators say that by 2020 most printed media will be gone. I think anyone who makes those types of comments doesn’t understand history. Just type into GoogleThe Death of TV” and you’ll see hundreds of articles predicting the end of television.”

— Joe Pulizzi, 7 Reasons to Consider Print For Your ‘Non-Traditional’ Content Strategy

“Media consumption has changed. Traditional methods of getting in front of the consumer are becoming irrelevant. If you think acquisition is hard, customer retention has become much more difficult.”

— Hesse Jones, How the New Consumer Will Force Businesses to Change

“From cutting cable, to new streaming players beyond Netflix, to new content creators beyond traditional studios, the entertainment space is in full upheaval.”

— George Deeb, 20 Digital Trends for 2015

“Take one example: The banner campaign. I kind of gave up on that a few years ago to tell you the truth. In B2B, it’s like buying eyeballs. It just wasn’t successful, but now you can actually use it reverse IP and actually target your message to very specific companies.”

— Nick Panayi, Is Paid Advertising worth It? B2B Content Marketers Share Their Insights

 Traditional Media Examples:

Both B2B and B2C marketers continue to utilize traditional media to some effect to build awareness and generate leads. Here are a few examples:

Pizza Hut solicited submissions of video clips of customers using “Hut, Hut!” football calls to incorporate into their 2013 Super Bowl commercial.

 

This print ad is part of a multimillion dollar integrated B2B campaign. The ads were distributed in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Sprint also ran digital and TV ads during the campaign.

sprint-print-advertising

Sponsored content from Shell appears in the pages of Washington Post’s print version below. The content, supplied by the advertiser, is labeled as sponsored and receives a color treatment that helps to set it aside from editorial content.

Washington-Post-Native-Ad

Best Practices

Traditional media best practices have been around as long as traditional media itself. However, as traditional media outlets go through their own transformations incorporating digital and social media, here are some topics to consider:

  • Ask for demographics. It’s not enough anymore to live by a media outlet’s rate sheet definition of their audience. Just as marketers dig into audience demographics, so do publishers. The information on their audience is available, so don’t be afraid to as for it.
  • Be on-brand. Advertising and content placement in traditional media can reach a somewhat more conservative audience than its digital counterparts. Consider the right messaging for the right audience and stick to it.
  • Be integrated. When you’re running print, TV, radio or even billboard campaigns it’s also a good idea integrate those campaigns into your editorial calendar for your owned property and social channels.
  • Track on your own, too. Any link you give a newspaper, radio or TV station for a digital ad is also a link you can customize and track on your own. Use a service like Google URL Builder to add custom URL tags to any links you use.

Have you been successful using traditional media  in your marketing mix? What are your tips and tricks?

For more content marketing best practices, see our full list of content marketing tactics with links to in-depth articles on each tactic just like this one.

Top image: Shutterstock


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. |
Traditional Media for Content Marketing: Pros, Cons, Examples and Best Practices | http://www.toprankblog.com

January 20th 2015 Online Marketing

Online Marketing Services: Why You Should Consider Charging by Task

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I am sure a lot of our readers and members provide some sorts of online marketing services and thus they are facing with the well-known dilemma: How to measure and charge for the service? How to make your pricing competitive and clear while not under-pricing yourself.

[There's also a follow up to this article on how to manage your own time more effectively]

With these questions we came to some of companies:


David Leonhardt from THGM Writing Services


“…estimate how much effort is involved and charge by the project”

First, let us draw a distinction between time-management and client billing.

For time management, that being my own work and work for clients combined, as well as any personal/family/household chores to get done, I work from a to-do list. I try to get the most important things done first, then I usually panic because the list is not shrinking very fast, so I turn my attention to quick things that I can tick off… then, being able to breathe more easily, I turn my attention to whatever is most important among what is left.

When it comes to client work, I estimate how much effort is involved and charge by the project. I really don’t want to watch the clock, and a lot of client work cannot be done in a single block of time, but rather needs to be interspersed with other work.


Tat Apostolova from Mum in search


“Charging for tasks keeps me motivated”

Back in the corporate world, when I was working in a job that paid for time spent in the office, I always felt undervalued. I’m a hard worker and I loved my job, so I was putting my heart into it when other people around me would just do the bare minimum and get paid a similar wage.

It just didn’t seem fair. I was a lot happier when I switched to a commission based job (in fact, this is exactly the reason I switched to a commission based job – I wanted to be paid fairly for my effort). Now that I’m running my own business from home, I charge for tasks. It keeps me motivated to work more productively.


Ashley Faulkes from Mad Lemmings


The future of work is task based

When pricing and measuring my work I try, or am still trying, to bring the cost of a service to task based. Basing your work and ultimately your value on a commodity is old fashioned and not useful. And after seeing many a worker waste time in the office and still get paid, I am sure is a pointless system.

One of the biggest issues with this idea is that people still see many services as commodities. So it is hard to sell, for instance, a website when there are so many competitors undercutting your services. Even if you are delivering a better product. So you have to sell your service based on a result, rather than on a service which can be evaluated on the number of hours you work.

One way to do this is to add things others cannot offer in the same service. Even if these things are not time intensive. That is where in my area marketing combined with web design comes together. Most people cannot do both well. Most web designers barely know SEO and cannot write at all. So by offering customers expertise that is not a commodity, you are able to sell a value based package.

I am not saying it is simple to achieve, but it is the future and we should all work towards it. Otherwise, we are doomed to work 9-5, only perhaps at home instead of in an office!


Andrew Isidoro


Task based + Pomodoro

I’m a big fan of task based tracking. Not only does it focus you on getting one thing completed but it also puts halt to the temptation to multitask which has been proved to reduce productivity. I’ve used task based tracking for a while now for my freelance business and I’ve found that it works particularly well with the Pomodoro technique to keep you focused and productive.

What are your tips for measuring your work and charging for it? Please share below!

The post Online Marketing Services: Why You Should Consider Charging by Task appeared first on SEO Chat.

January 20th 2015 Online Marketing, SEO

Online Marketing News: Facebook Gets To Work, Left-Handed E-Commerce, No Facebook-Exclusive

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Marketing Technology Landscape 2015

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2015) - The 2015 edition of the marketing technology landscape supergraphic has been released, now with 1,876 vendors represented across 43 categories. Check click here to see a much larger, readable version. ChiefMartec

Facebook Introduces ‘Work’, A Social Tool For Businessess and Employees - Though we may try to hide it, it’s no secret that we browse Facebook at work. Now the social network wants to make it so we no longer have to hide it with a new product its working on to make social media more work-friendly. Search Engine Journal

Study: How to Find the Best Social Media Content for Your Audience - As a brand, what’s the best way to determine which social media content most interests your audience? Answer: study past campaigns, and current user behaviour. A new survey from Percolate found that 31 percent of U.S. marketers tracked performance data of past content/campaigns to help plan future content. AllTwitter

2 in 3 Senior Marketers Plan Tech Spending Increases - More spending on technology? That’s what 2 in 3 senior marketers believe. See where they think their spending is headed and by how much. Marketing Charts

Retailers Using Product Videos Report Much Higher AOV, Conversion Rates - Survey of retail brands such as Best Buy, Newegg, OnlineShoes and Under Armour shows how product videos can impact the bottom line. Marketing Land

How Gender, Age, and Left-Handedness Affect E-Commerce Behavior [Infographic] - Women click around more on e-commerce sites, left-handed shoppers are slower to navigate, and older consumers tend to view fewer pages, according to a recent report from Content Square. MarketingProfs

Facebook: More than 1B Daily Video Views - In unwelcome news for YouTube and the television industry, Facebook released statistics Wednesday illustrating explosive growth in video uploads and views, saying that the social network has averaged more than 1 billion daily video views since June. AllFacebook

Brands Don’t Pay Attention to Customers on Twitter, Says Study - An analysis of 100 of the world’s top consumer brands has found that those using Twitter respond to just one in five tweets from followers, including messages asking for help or support. AllTwitter

STUDY: Facebook Users Aren’t Facebook-Exclusive - It’s no surprise that social network users are multitaskers, but according to new research from Pew Research Center, 52 percent of online adults currently use two or more social networks, up from 42 percent in 2013. AllFacebook

Pew Report: Instagram Use Growing Quickly, Facebook Stagnant - According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 social media report, there has been no growth from 2013 in Facebook usage among U.S. adults polled, while Instagram has risen considerably. Inside Facebook

75% Of Small & Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs) Say Internet Marketing Is Effective - In October-November 2014, we (BrightLocal) conducted our annual SMB Internet Marketing Survey.This is an online survey of businesses with 1-50 employees in which we ask them about their attitudes and use of internet marketing, mobile marketing and marketing services. We ran the survey in conjunction with ChamberofCommerce.com, and we received 736 complete survey responses. Find out what they said. Search Engine Land

Google to Roll Out Viewability Reporting - At CES in Las Vegas, the search giant announced that it will offer viewability reports across its ad platforms, and touted the early success of its programmatic video marketplace.Google is rolling out viewability reporting across its ad platforms, according to Neal Mohan, vice president of video and digital advertising, speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. ClickZ

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: ChiefMartec


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. |
Online Marketing News: Facebook Gets To Work, Left-Handed E-Commerce, No Facebook-Exclusive | http://www.toprankblog.com

January 16th 2015 Online Marketing

How to Be Creative AND Brand Compliant in Social Marketing

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Social Media Marketing

Ask social media managers about “brand standards” and you might elicit some uncomfortable expressions. Brand standards, created to ensure uniformity with brand messaging and imagery, can sometimes feel like restrictions for creative social development.

“Do I really need to include all these brand logos and elements in every social message?”

The answer (most often) is yes, but don’t let this dampen your spirits. Maintaining a consistent brand identity is vital for long-term business growth, and you can still flex your creative social muscle within brand guidelines. Here are some tips that can help you stretch your brand’s identity to its creative peaks:

Expand on the brand’s story

Remember that the brand’s identity is more than just logos and images. The brand’s narrative must weave throughout any social campaigns, with each message calling back to a larger initiative or point-of-view. Focus less on the message-specific requirements and more on the overarching story.

Creative strategist Todd Metrokin argues that companies don’t own their brand stories, but add to them. Marketers are valuable assets in expanding that story without jeopardizing the brand’s identity with its customers.

Consider these story-expanding ideas when building your social campaigns:

  • Create a campaign around a specific feeling. What emotions are directly tied to the brand’s identity? Do they appear confident in the face of uncertainty? Play on that emotion within social, and don’t be afraid to challenge the customer’s preconceptions about industry topics.
  • Show the aftermath. B2B businesses are adept at sharing case studies and whitepapers, but the narrative is also strengthened through direct response with satisfied clients. You can still direct users to brand-approved assets, but you’ll also open your networks to new followers by including previous clients within your messaging.

Provide a channel-specific experience

While the brand’s identity must be maintained across all social platforms, there are still opportunities to craft channel-unique experiences within brand standards. How the brand is perceived on Twitter shouldn’t be the same as on Facebook or LinkedIn – so don’t post the same content across all channels.

Social media strategist Chris Syme notes that “social media channels have develop specific personalities – not because marketers have made it so, but because users have made it so.” Even if the landing page content is the same across the social campaign, each message should align the brand’s voice best for the specific social network.

Try these tips to promote variety between channels with branded content:

  • Create variety in visuals. Twitter content can be supplemented with vibrant images, while LinkedIn posts would benefit from a companion SlideShare presentations. Take full advantage of each network’s visual capabilities with branded imagery.
  • Cross-promote to build network awareness. If the brand content is exactly the same on all channels, your customers only need to engage with one of them to receive the complete story. Instead, tease content between channels – the audience might appreciate seeing a new side of the brand.

Recruit internal ambassadors

Brand voice isn’t limited to the social communications from company accounts. It flows throughout the company’s workforce, and every internal subject expert can influence it. Socially-active internal influencers are likely already aware of brand compliance standards, so they require less upfront training before publishing brand-approved content.

IBM’s Bill Chamberlin notes that any employee social advocacy program should be long-term and sustainable. “With employees being the most trusted sources for customers, it’s vital that your company’s employees are encouraged to participate in advocating for your brand,” Chamberlin added.

Keep these thoughts in mind when recruiting internal ambassadors to share your content:

  • There will still be training. Even if your ambassadors go to sleep with the brand guidelines each night, there will still be need for training on how your social strategy maintains brand compliance.
  • Ensure their accounts are also brand-complaint. If they are to become official spokespeople of the brand on social, audit their accounts to weave in brand voice. There are also new FTC regulations governing disclosures from personal accounts, so make sure your ambassadors know the rules.

Brand guidelines might initially present a tactical hurdle to social media execution, but that doesn’t mean your strategy should also be limited. Instead, challenge yourself to expand the brand further with social – you might even convince the company to embrace brand fluidity over time.

Have you developed a social campaign under strict brand guidelines? What did you do to promote creative content within them?

image: pixabay


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How to Be Creative AND Brand Compliant in Social Marketing | http://www.toprankblog.com

January 15th 2015 Online Marketing, Social Media

Worst. Marketing. Advice. Ever. Top Brands Share All

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worst marketing advice

Someone once said, “The best advice is this: Don’t take advice and don’t give advice.”

While that statement isn’t true for the most part, there are a few times in a marketer’s career in which it might be best to just ignore the advice.

As all of the 2015 predictions and advice blog posts came rolling in, we thought it would be fun to ask just the opposite. So we reached out to some marketers and asked, “what is the worst marketing advice you have received or witnessed?”

We think you’ll find a whole lot of “what not to do” in what follows.

LaSandra BrillLaSandra Brill
Sr. Director, Paid & Earned Media, Symantec
@LaSandraBrill

I was once told that I was “too aggressive.” This was feedback that I received from my manager at the time. I wonder to this day if he would have given me that same feedback if I were a man. I decided to not let this feedback change me but to instead change who my manager was.

Julie Fleischer
Director, Data + Content + Media, Kraft Foods Group
@jfly
Julie FleischerHands down the worst advice I’ve received is to religiously input past results into forecasts of future ones and then build plans accordingly. Consumers and the communications landscape are changing too fast to keep doing what you’ve always done and expecting the same (or better!) returns.

Success requires knowing your consumer today (not yesterday), open-mindedness to new ideas, media experimentation and innovation.

Avinash Kaushik
Digital Marketing Evangelist, Google
@avinash
Avinash KaushikAnything that starts with “All you need is to rock SEO!” The bit at the end could be Email, Social, Site Experience, Paid Search, Affiliate, anything really. That advice is a demonstration of I’m a one-trick pony and so let me do the one dance I know.

It takes a complex mix of marketing strategies by companies to win. We’ve grown up with silos. Any advice related to optimizing one silo falls in the category of “worst marketing advice.”

The best employees/consultants obsess about optimizing for a Marketing Portfolio and possess the incredible capacity to understand each channel’s purpose, are able to recommend content matches in response to the customer need, and finally measure success of that portfolio strategy. [I call this the See-Think-Do-Care framework.]

You know you have great marketing advice if it represents clear thought for the entire marketing portfolio and the advice’s role in it.

Michelle Lapierre
Senior Director, Customer Experience & Social Media at Marriott Rewards
@mmlap
Michelle LapierreHere’s the brand style guide – don’t deviate”. As if:
* What worked in print and email channels would magically transfer to social channels.
* Talking about ourselves – with the right font and color palette – was the priority. * Giving no regard to the social conversation, and adapting to that conversation, was the norm.
* The command-and-control method of brand marketing still existed.

Mei Lee
VP, Marketing – Digital at Conde Nast Entertainment
@himelee
Mei LeeThe worst marketing advice I’ve heard recently is to use the same ad creative across all social media platforms because you want your campaign message to be consistent everywhere.

Customers behave differently on each social media platform. Their need states vary from Facebook to Instagram to Vine. Your ad copy and call-to-action should be customized to meet specific need states. 

Rebecca Lieb
Industry Analyst, The Altimeter Group
@lieblink
Rebecca Lieb
I recall getting a call from a junior-level marketing person at a major publishing house. A big-brand, very conservative, financial publication. Her boss had numbers to meet, so instructed her to buy a shady piece of software (from Russia) off the web that scraped email addresses. He needed bigger email marketing lists. Her desperate query to me was, “I know this is wrong. Could you please help me to explain to him why this is wrong?”

 

Matt McGowan
Strategy at Google (COO of Americas Ad Agency Business)
@matt_mcgowan
Matt McGowan

“Do it for the for the award shows!”

 

 

 


Jennifer Mesenbrink

Senior Manager, Digital and Social Content Strategy Motorola Solutions
@EditorThink

Jennifer MesenbrinkMy personal pet peeve with managing social media is that people assume you can just delete negative comments or ignore them. Yes, you can choose that path with your personal social media accounts, but when you’re managing a business account, that is literally the exact opposite way to handle those interactions via social media. Social media is about entering into a conversation with those vocal dissenters – answering their questions, solving problems, addressing their concerns in a legitimate way — so you can change that customer’s opinion. It’s not a problem – it’s a social opportunity.

Joe Pulizzi
Founder, Content Marketing Institute and Author, “Epic Content Marketing”
@JoePulizzi

Joe PulizziOne thing that has really bothered me is how many times I hear these two words – Have to.
* You “have to” be on Facebook.
* You “have to” blog.
* You “have to” do Google Adwords.

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to literally dozens of marketing speeches where so-called experts have said these two words. Not once have I ever agreed with that. Marketing is both art and science.

There is no “one way” to do things. If you ever hear someone say that there is something you MUST do…that there is no other way…my advice is…run.

Mark Schaefer
Consultant, Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, Adjunct Marketing Professor, Rutgers University
@markwschaefer
Mark SchaeferThere is a lot of bad advice out there but one mantra that sticks in my head is to “be controversial” to get traffic to your site.

To me, this is like playing with fire. I can’t imagine convincing my boss that a company and a carefully-groomed brand should mindfully be associated with forced negativity. If the thing blows up in a bad way, you’re into damage control and even if it works, can you really sustain “controversy” as a strategy? This is different than holding a legitimate opinion or taking a stand in an authentic way.

What is the worst marketing advice that you have ever received or heard? Share with our readers in the comments below.

Top image: Shutterstock


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January 14th 2015 Online Marketing

White Papers: Pros, Cons, Examples and Best Practices

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White  Papers.jpg

Not every piece of content we produce resides at the top of the sales funnel spinning up awareness. If that were the case, our jobs as marketers would be much easier.

When digital marketers roll up their sleeves and generate leads, many have found that white papers provide a utility for which potential customers are willing to give up a name and email address. White papers are more substantial pieces of content that allow customers to solve an information problem that represents the solutions your company can offer.

Do marketers still use white papers?

A 2014 study conducted by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs showed that 64% of marketers use white papers. Among those are marketers tasked with conveying more in-depth, complicated information to potential buyers. Those marketers recognize the impact that white papers can have on a consumer’s buying decision. When used effectively, white papers can serve as and anchor to a longer content marketing campaign. Here’s how:

White Paper Pros:

  • Leads. While white papers do not need to be gated to generate leads, most marketers use them as such.
  • White papers attract decision makers: White papers are the type of content that gets consumed by buyers. Those with a handle on a company’s budget, those who make strategic decisions for their organization are also likely to appreciate a fact-based, detailed report.
  • White papers set you apart from the competition. Who would you rather buy from? A company that went through the trouble of producing a multiple-page report that walked you through a solution, or one that didn’t?
  • Lead generation: White papers are seen by many consumers as “problem solvers.” Consumers are willing to share information because they are getting a solution in return.
  • White papers get shared. If Consumer 1 downloads and prints a white paper in the office, he may just use it to solve his problem and be done. When Consumer 2 comes across the same problem and uses Consumer 1’s copy of the white paper, she may be in a better position to visit your company’s site and make a purchase.
  • White paper content is recyclable. Repurposed content in the form of blog posts, infographics and more can be used to help drive traffic to your white paper landing page.

White Paper Cons:

  • White papers need a lot of care after they are created. Just posting it to your site and sharing it once isn’t enough. You’ll need to continually drive traffic to the landing page in order to demonstrate return on investment.
  • White papers can be perceived as dry and boring. Effective white papers are loaded with data, research and statistics.
  • You need to speak your buyer’s language. For example, an engineer looking to buy electronic equipment will likely see right through a white paper written by an marketing rep may not have done the research. Long content like white papers can take up a lot of resources in research.

What Marketers are Saying:

“You can attract more leads by posting your white paper to a syndication service. These services will promote your white paper, and you usually pay for every lead they bring your way. Just be sure that your syndication service can get your white paper in front of your ideal customers and that you’re not paying for bad leads such as your competitors, students and consultants.”

— Rachel Foster, 7 Ways to Promote Your White Papers to Get More Downloads, Leads and Shares

“A truly great white paper is educational and even groundbreaking. It should have your prospects nodding in agreement as they read it. They should come away better informed and believing that you clearly grasp their problem and understand how to fix it.”

— Justin Pugsley, How to Use White Paper to Sell to Businesses

White Paper Examples:

By exchanging contact information for an opportunity to download content, buyers are expecting that content to be useful and beneficial to their situation. White paper content should answer questions or solve part of a problem that consumers are facing. In the following example, companies understand the pain points that buyers face and offer solutions through white paper content.

To attract clients struggling with running a social businesses, Hootsuite offers a white paper 8 Tips for Social Business. The 7-page white paper includes a closing page further describing the company as well as showcasing some of Hootsuite’s top clients.

Hootsuite - white paper example

 

Adobe, in an effort to reach business professionals searching for detailed information about document security, published the white paper Global Insights on Document Security.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 4.40.57 PM

The white paper is 15 pages and contains the type of research and data an IT professional will be looking for when making decisions on his company’s document and file security practices.

Atalasoft, a document imaging company partnered with the digital publisher Software Development Times to release the white paper Scanning on the Web.

Atlasoft white paper example

The 7-page white paper details four separate options for web scanning and offers readers a 30-day trial of Atalasoft’s latest scanning solution.

Best Practices

Good white papers should be a part of any sales process in which purchase decisions are made across a longer sales cycle. In your effort to always being the best answer for your customers, consider these best practices when writing white papers.

  • Answer specific questions. Know what your customers are searching for and craft your white paper with buyer insight and data-driven topics.
  • Ask for just the right amount of data in return. What you ask for in a customer registration is up to you: It could be email address, name, phone number or mailing address. Beware that asking for more information than necessary will turn many people away.
  • Integrate. White papers works best in concert with other paid, earned and owned tactics.
  • Don’t push too hard for the sale. Present the information that you believe is required to help your customers solve the problem that brought them to your download page. Beyond that, any appearance of over-selling is probably a turn-off. Let your helpful content speak for itself.
  • Be visual. Use graphs and charts that can easily represent data.
  • Prove it. White papers are often formatted like more academic reports, with attribution of sources and footnotes if needed. Your customers want to know that the detailed information you are sharing is well-sourced.
  • Repurpose. Make the most of the time you put into your white papers. Content developed for your white paper can be used in smaller blog posts or condensed into infographics. Think of your white paper as a campaign anchor and develop resources around it to drive traffic and optimize performance.

Have you been successful using white papers in your marketing mix? What are your tips and tricks?

For more content marketing best practices, see our full list of content marketing tactics with links to in-depth articles on each tactic just like this one.

 

Top image: Shutterstock


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January 13th 2015 B2B, Online Marketing

Online Marketing News: Yahoo! Up Google Down, No Personalisation, Bye Bye Bing Digits

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B2B Sales Benchmarks

New Data Exposes the Best and Worst Customer Conversion Channels [Infographic] - A new infographic from Implisit which reveals the most and least effective channels for customer conversion might prompt you to crack the newly approved plans open once more and make a few revisions. Implisit

Facebook Gives Advertisers More Information on Conversion Pixels -  Facebook is providing more data for advertisers that use its conversion pixels. This additional data allows advertisers to get a better understanding of how their potential customers are seeing their ads. AllFacebook

Report: Yahoo Search Share Up After Firefox Deal, Google Down - According to new data from StatCounter, Yahoo has seen a nearly 2 point search market share gain in the US in the past month. Attributing it to the recent Yahoo-Firefox default search deal, StatCounter reported that Yahoo had a share of 10.4 percent vs. 8.6 percent a year ago. Search Engine Land

38% Of Marketers Do Not Use Personalisation: Report - More than a third of companies do not implement any form of personalisation in their marketing activities, according to a new report from Econsultancy. Econsultancy

Study: How Much Time do Marketers Spend Planning Twitter and Facebook Content? - One in five U.S. marketing executives create their Twitter content on the same day of publication, reveals a new study. Percolate surveyed the length of time that marketers plan ahead their social media content, and found that 22 percent worked day-to-day on Twitter, compared to 14 percent who did the same on Facebook. AllTwitter

Twitter Adds ‘While You Were Away’ To Top Of News Feeds - Microblogging platform Twitter has started rolling out a new feature known as ‘while you were away’ across its apps and website. The tool shows users a selection of tweets that Twitter considers as vital, and that its users may have missed while they were logged out or away. SocialBarrel

If You’re Not Marketing on Bing You’re Missing 30% of U.S. Searchers - When people hear that nearly 30 percent of searchers in the US use Bing on a daily basis, most think they can reach 70 percent of searchers without Bing or reach Bing users somewhere else. Wrong on both counts. Entrepreneur

Google to Tell Brands When Their Video Ads Are Actually Seen - Google is getting more transparent with advertisers about whether consumers are actually watching their online video ads. Ad Age

WhatsApp Tops 700M Users, 30B Daily Messages - Facebook-owned cross-platform messaging application WhatsApp surpassed two significant milestones, topping 700 million monthly active users, as well as 30 billion messages sent daily. AllFacebook

Google: The News Algorithm Has Over 200 Ranking Factors - Stacie Chan from the Google News team posted in a Google News Help thread implying that the Google News ranking algorithm uses over 200 ranking factors for ranking. Search Engine Roundtable

Yahoo Achieves Its Highest Search Share Since 2009 - Yahoo achieved its highest U.S. search share in more than five years last month, according to Web traffic analytics provider StatCounter. Search Engine Watch

Bing Ads, Too, Says Goodbye To Phone Numbers In PPC Ad Copy - The free phone call ride is coming to an end for PPC advertisers. Back in April 2013, Google stopped allowing advertisers to put phone numbers in their AdWords ad copy. Today, Bing Ads announced a similar change. Search Engine Land

From our Online Marketing Community:

From 30 Favorite Quotes From Content Marketing Influencers in 2014, Kameel Vohra said, “My favourite is “This site, is built for people to come and get involved. … What matters to them?” Chris Brogan, Aug 12, 2014. I find it incredible how quickly all the internal stakeholders seem to forget about the customer.”

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Implisit


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January 9th 2015 Online Marketing

Our 25 Most Shared Online Marketing Posts of 2014

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top online marketing blog posts

We have a rich history here at Online Marketing Blog of talking about topics that have a bit of staying power for relevancy.

From the integration of SEO with social media and content marketing to the growing field of influencer marketing and co-created content, there’s a great mix of advice that we have published over the past year that will be useful for quite a while.

We appreciate your patronage of our site and your generosity in sharing the things that you like.  Using a few of our favorite tools, we’ve identified our top 25 most shared online marketing blog posts from 2014 – share counts are rounded to the hundreds.  Along with each post is the targeted topic and type followed with notes after the list on some basic patterns – all useful insights for our readers that blog.

1. Digital Marketing in 2015 – Predictions from 21 Marketers Who Know
Social Shares: 12,000
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Digital Marketing
Type: List, Co-Created, Influencers

2. 2014 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media
Social Shares: 6,300
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Social Media
Type: List, Recognition, Influencers

3. Email Marketing Essentials: A Checklist for Writing Emails That Get Opened
Social Shares: 5,500
Author: Brooke Furry
Topic: Email Marketing
Type: Evergreen, Best Practices

4. 10 Real Time Content Discovery Tools for Curation, Engagement and Sharing
Social Shares: 4,600
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Content Marketing, Tools
Type: Curated, List

5.  10 Must Read Content Marketing Posts for 2015
Social Shares: 3,400
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Content Marketing
Type: Curated, List

6. The Hashtag Test: Best and Worst Practices for Social Media Marketers
Social Shares: 3,100
Author: Nick Ehrenberg
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Type: Evergreen, Best Practices

7. 15 Women Who Rock Social Media at Top Tech Companies – Career Advice & Insights
Social Shares: 2,400
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Type: List, Recognition, Influencers

8. Digital Marketing – What Does It Really Mean? Insights from 9 Brand Digital Marketers
Social Shares: 2,300
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Digital Marketing
Type: Co-Created, Influencers

9. 24 Social Media Tools To Boost Your Marketing Performance
Social Shares: 2,100
Author: Emily Bacheller
Topic: Social Media Marketing, Tools
Type: Liveblog, List

10. 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know According to LinkedIn
Social Shares: 2,100
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Type: List, Influencers, Recognition, Repurposed

11. 3 Content Curation Best Practices to Optimize Your Content Marketing
Social Shares: 2,100
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Content Marketing
Type: Evergreen, Best Practices

12. New LinkedIn Profile Features: 4 Tips to Optimize Your Presence
Social Shares: 1,900
Author: Evan Prokop
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Type: Feature Update, Best Practices

13. Social Media Content: Pros, Cons, Examples and Best Practices
Social Shares: 1,900
Author: James Anderson
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Type: Evergreen, Best Practices

14. Over 100 B2B Content Marketing Statistics for 2014
Social Shares: 1,800
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Content Marketing, Statstics
Type: Curated, List

15. 9 Tools to Discover Influencers in Your Industry
Social Shares: 1,800
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Influencer Marketing, Tools
Type: Curated, List

16. Content and Influencer Marketing is A Powerful Way to Grow Your Business
Social Shares: 1,700
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing
Type: Repurposed

17. 5 LinkedIn Marketing Tips to Optimize Your Social Media Success
Social Shares: 1,700
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Social Media Marketing, LinkedIn Marketing
Type: Repurposed, Co-Created

18. Strategy vs. Tactics. Does Your Digital Marketer Really Know the Difference?
Social Shares: 1,700
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Digital Marketing
Type: Evergreen

19. 3 Ways to Optimize Your Brand’s Social Media Marketing Success
Social Shares: 1,600
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Type: Evergreen

20. 4 Essential Trends in Social Media Marketing in 2014
Social Shares: 1,600
Author: Evan Prokop
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Type: Liveblog

21. The Number One Secret to B2B Content Marketing Success Plus 150 B2B Marketing Statistics
Social Shares: 1,600
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Content Marketing, B2B Marketing
Type: Curated, List

22. How a Shift from All SEO to Social & Influencer Content Boosted Page Views by 500%
Social Shares: 1,600
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: SEO, Influencer Content
Type: Case Study

23. 5 Social Selling Tactics to Attract, Engage & Convert More Customers
Social Shares: 1,600
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Social Selling
Type: Evergreen, Best Practices

24. Organic Facebook Marketing Tips From the Pros
Social Shares: 1,500
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Social Media Marketing, Facebook Marketing
Type: Curated, Co-Created

25. 5 Essential Skills for Digital Marketing Consultants
Social Shares: 1,500
Author: Lee Odden
Topic: Digital Marketing
Type: Evergreen

It’s safe to say that lists continue to do well with 10 of the top 25 posts falling in that type. There were 6 curated posts which is also a popular and efficient blog post type. 8 posts were of the Evergreen variety, showing that original and timeless content, while more time consuming to create, has a distinct appeal.

6 of the top posts were best practices, which are usually pretty popular given the actionable nature of the information.  6 of the posts also employed influencers which would factor an incentive for promotion of the post for recognition. 5 is also the magic number for posts that were repurposed from other content ranging from blog posts to presentations to interviews.

Topically, these top 25 posts stayed pretty close to our areas of domain expertise: Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Influencer Marketing and some SEO. Although, Brooke’s post about Email Marketing (an important, but secondary focus) was 3rd most shared for the entire year.

There are many more inputs for topic and type with our posts of course (target audience, opportunity, alignment with events and other marketing objectives) but even at a high level, it’s easy to see some basic patterns in the topics and types of posts our community likes to share on social networks. Hopefully you find them useful in your blogging in 2015 and beyond.


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January 6th 2015 Online Marketing

The Value of, and Steps to Design, the Perfect Website

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by Jayson DeMers

The idea of designing your own website may seem challenging if you’ve never done it before … but it doesn’t have to be. Even with new trends and shifting goals for 2015, the array of tools and resources available online makes it easy for any business to develop its own muscular online presence.
Use the step-by-step guide below to demystify the process of creating the perfect website. 
Will just any website do? 
Obviously, the answer is no. Between ongoing changes to search engine algorithms, the steady evolution of SEO, and your need for a flexible website that can accommodate any electronic device, you can’t possibly create a successful website overnight.
Sure, you could use a website builder and have an online presence in little more than an hour. However, the chances that your target audience will find you online — if it doesn’t know enough to type in your domain precisely — are bound to be minuscule. 
Choose a domain and hosting provider
The choice of domain is a decision that requires considerable care, because it will be your brand’s online hallmark. Brainstorm multiple domain names, from your firm’s legal title to a keyword or phrase that represents your brand, before making a choice.
While there are ways to get around the consequences of choosing a subpar domain name, it’s preferable to land a great name from the beginning to properly claim your online real estate. Some hosting providers will give you a free domain name, but you shouldn’t get reeled in by specials.
Research the hosting provider’s plan to ensure it is scalable and can meet your needs over time.
Identify your target audience
First, identify your target audience. While this may seem obvious, your online target audience may not be exactly the same as your customers in the offline world.
For example, B2B companies ultimately want to reach the CEO or CFO, but may have to appeal to a lower-level staff member who’s more likely to conduct an online search. Also, your website may need to appeal to multiple buyers.
Have a clear understanding of what your target audience is apt to be seeking before you design your website. 
Determine the site’s purpose
Are you selling a product or service via your website? Is your goal to inform and engage your audience?
Regardless of your site’s goals, they must be documented prior to plunging into web design. Some companies may need a secure, e-commerce-capable site, while others require a basic but informative and engaging digital presence. Identify and list your website’s goals before moving forward. 
Sketch the user’s experience 
From attention-grabbing text to clear calls to action, a website’s design elements must benefit users while achieving your business goals. A proven method of planning the user experience involves brainstorming with wireframes or a simple sketch.
Step into your audience member’s shoes and jot down attractive, distracting, or unnecessary design elements. If you’re able to mimic the buyer’s journey, you can identify what makes sense (and what doesn’t) for your site.
Create a site map to outline the main sections of your website and ask yourself, “Does this benefit the user, and will it help us reach our business goals?” 
Select a development platform or professional
Between website builders who offer an out-of-the-box solution to site design and professional developers capable of creating a 100% customized web presence, it can be tough to decide which site development option will best meet your needs. Typically, you face the following choices: 
  • Website builder. A convenient solution for those who lack coding knowledge or web expertise, a site builder can have your website up and running in no time. However, the end result is unlikely to be as functional or visually appealing compared to a custom site. 
  • WordPress. Requiring little skill to use, WordPress has become the most popular platform on which to build an initial website. Though it may take longer to launch than a site builder would, WordPress furnishes a variety options for web designers without requiring a significant investment. Similar platforms, such as Drupal, are also an option. 
  • Professional developer. The most expensive of these three choices, hiring a professional developer is a good move if you’re seeking a custom website and are not pressed by a tight deadline. Because custom site development can take months, newer businesses often select a more cost-effective alternative.
Whichever option you choose, you should confirm it will provide you with the desired end result as outlined by earlier planning. 
Plan visual elements
Imagery is a huge part of web design and can determine whether a visitor returns to your site. What will grab people’s attention once your site loads, and where will the visitor’s eye be directed?
Does the visitor’s journey dovetail with the site’s goals? Are navigational features intuitive? How images, menus, logos, and other visual elements work together will drive your site’s overall success. 
Incorporate SEO best practices
Before publishing a new website, review current SEO best practices and incorporate them into your site. As search engine algorithms change, today’s recommendations may be tomorrow’s pitfalls; that’s why staying abreast of SEO news is crucial for web designers.
Consider the following must-have SEO elements: 
  • Relevant content
  • Responsive capability
  • Social integration
  • Meta titles, descriptions, and tags
  • Fast load time
Use these tips to create a powerful website designed to attract customers, increase online visibility, and improve conversion rates online. 
Do you have any website design tips to share? 

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