• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    An Introduction to Employee Advocacy

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • Content marketing isn't anything new but it has proven to be an effective marketing strategy for companies of all sizes. For 2014, the Content Marketing Institute reports that overall amounts spent on content marketing is segmented by B2B companies allocating 30% of their marketing budgets, while B2C companies earmark 24% of their marketing budgets.

    Content marketing isn't anything new but it has proven to be an effective marketing strategy for companies of all sizes. For 2014 the Content Marketing Institute reports that overall amounts spent on content marketing is segmented by B2B companies allocating 30% of their marketing budgets, while B2C companies earmark 24% of their marketing budgets. In 2012, midsized organizations spent 22% of their marketing budgets on content marketing.

    Midsized organizations are using content marketing to support multiple objectives:

    • Brand awareness – thought leadership and trusted source of quality information
    • Customer retention and loyalty – nurturing ongoing relationships
    • Lead management activities (lead gen, nurturing, presales buyer journey touchpoints)
    • New customer acquisition
    • Improving website traffic and eCommerce activity

    We see a lot of articles about how organizations go wrong when it comes to content marketing.And most of what's called out is not surprising: failure to write properly on topics that customers prefer or to even find out what customers want to read; poor writing quality and non-engaging material; promoting marketing brochure-ware instead of useful, thought-provoking material. Organizations can fail to understand how to match the right content to the right channel, or lack the knowledge as to which channels different customer segments prefer for various kinds of content. These organizations may not even have clear customer segmentation for their products.

    The existence of these missteps usually indicates the lack of a cohesive long-term strategy for content marketing. And it's just as likely that there is no overarching marketing strategy that ties into corporate goals and objectives. This may mean that not only does content marketing lack executive backing, but the overall marketing function is suffering the same fate.

    Well-Crafted Strategies

    So before an organization can create a well-crafted content marketing strategy, upper management must make the commitment to be customer-focused and marketing savvy. The value of content marketing to reach the customer-as-buyer must be given credence, support and enablement. Content marketing is not a short term campaign or project; it's a strategic commitment that impacts the entire enterprise.

    Content marketing (if done well) keeps the company focused on understanding and meeting the needs of customers – something companies should be doing anyway. Align the business with the customer, align content with the customer. Content marketing is a natural progression from recognizing that the customer-as-buyer drives more of how, when or even if sales happen. The work to be done to understand how to deliver the right content to customers and prospects is the same work that organizations should be doing to deliver the products and services that customers and prospects want and need.

    Strategic decisions need to be made regarding the technology tools to assist content marketing initiatives. For well-targeted content, marketing teams need sophisticated analytics for customer segmentation and behavioral insight to create the right content for the right customer segment, delivered where the customer wants to find it. Digital marketing technologies interoperate with content marketing initiatives, including marketing automation and omnichannel experience management platforms.

    A comprehensive content marketing strategy provides a wellspring for all company content so that organizations connect with customers consistently and clearly. The content marketing strategy pulls together individual marketing programs and initiatives resulting in a more seamless transition for the customer from channel to channel. Connecting the tactics of marketing to a content strategy makes it more possible to construct metrics that track the effectiveness of quality content, that then can be mapped to functions such as lead gen, sales funnel and overall marketing ROI.

    This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM's Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

    Image source: Post+Beam

    Enjoy a replay of our Hangout on Air with the author of People Love You: The Real Secret to Delivering Legendary Customer Experiences. This book and author discussion is the first for the Social Business Book Club, brought to you by Wiley and Social Media Today. This video features Jeb Blount.

    Enjoy a replay of our Hangout on Air with the author of People Love You: The Real Secret to Delivering Legendary Customer Experiences. This book and author discussion is the first for the Social Business Book Club, brought to you by Wiley and Social Media Today. This video features Jeb Blount.

    Delivering a legendary customer experience is the single most important competitive advantage across all industries. In People Love You, human relationship guru Jeb Blount offers a playbook for interacting with customers in a way that creates deep, enduring connections that withstand pressures in the marketplace.

    Most successful content marketing programs involve contributions from internal staff – as writers, as editors, as subject matter experts, or as sharers. For many of these people, content marketing represents less than one percent of what they are supposed to be doing. To make matters worse, most of these people do not report directly to you, Ms. Director of Content Marketing.

    On maybe a half dozen occasions this year, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in a conference room full of people whose enthusiasm for content marketing is at an all-time high. Having just been exposed to their company’s first content marketing plan, the Kool-Aid flows, and everyone drinks it copiously.

    While this is always a time for positive, hopeful thinking, I often wonder if we make it clear enough that a content marketing transformation is not easy. As the company moves from planning to execution, and again as it moves from initial execution to ongoing execution, the bumps in the road are plentiful.

    For those who want to put down the Kool-Aid for a moment, here are a few of the bumps you should be prepared for.

    It’s going to cost more than you think.

    The planning fallacy tells us that not only will organizations underestimate the time required to complete a task or project, but that this will result in cost or budget overruns.

    This holds true for content marketing just about every time.

    Content marketing is centered around owned media, versus earned media (PR) or paid media (advertising). While many consider control and cost efficiency two of the many benefits of owned media, during a typical planning process it’s extremely difficult to nail down the exact cost of the combination of full-time internal resources, part-time internal resources, and outsourced resources.

    That doesn’t mean that you can’t identify a starting budget, but do so with the understanding that you may not really get a handle on your investment level until you are 6-12 months into the effort.

    The initial plan is necessary, but ongoing planning is critical.

    I would not recommend even dabbling in content marketing without a real plan.

    I would also not recommend making the assumption that your initial plan is the end of your content marketing planning. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

    For instance, while your initial plan should include a healthy set of ideas, messages, and themes, it takes quite a bit of time to plan all the details of an editorial calendar for an entire year. Take the time during planning to build out your framework (deciding how often you will publish and what types of content) and at least a few months of your editorial calendar. But realize that you will need to readjust, add, and reconsider themes during the year. New products, shifts in business goals, or changes in the market may require you to adjust or add ideas and themes to accommodate those changes.

    The idea well WILL run dry.

    Speaking of ideas, you will run out of them. Don’t feel bad about that – it happens to the best of us.

    Idea generation, in some form or fashion, should occur on a consistent basis, sometimes scheduled, sometimes not. When you build your plan, be sure to determine your method for capturing and building out ideas. For some people, that’s pen and pad. For others, it’s a software tool. Still others may prefer some form of white boarding.

    Do know what to do when the well runs dry, though. Sometimes a content brainstorm is required. Sometimes, you need something that looks more than editorial meeting. If you need a quick head start, check out our checklist: 10 Ways to Generate New Content Ideas.

    People will fail you.

    Most successful content marketing programs involve contributions from internal staff – as writers, as editors, as subject matter experts, or as sharers. For many of these people, content marketing represents less than one percent of what they are supposed to be doing. To make matters worse, most of these people do not report directly to you, Ms. Director of Content Marketing.

    You’re going to get disappointed by these people more than a few times. Deadlines will be missed. Quality will be poor in certain cases.  Some will ignore your requests completely, claiming no time.

    This is simply one of the most common struggles with insourcing your content marketing.

    The only way around it? Acquire the highest level of executive buy-in available, and assemble the best content marketing team possible.

    You will start questioning the value of individual pieces of content.

    Step 1: Create remarkable content.

    Step 2: People will share it.

    Step 3: Some portion of the people that consume said content will sign up for whatever you’re selling.

    This is the greatest misconception of content marketing, according to Rand Fishkin.

    The idea that simply creating content and sharing will immediately generate new revenue leads some companies to give up on pieces of the content marketing program way too early, and it usually starts with the questioning of individual pieces of content and the associated investment.

    “It took ten hours to create and distribute that blog post, and we saw nothing from it.”

    “This email newsletter only generated a 15-percent open rate. We should consider killing it.”

    Do continue to evaluate your content for its quality, purpose, and contribution to overarching messaging. Do not abandon certain pieces of content, or even the program entirely, based on short-term conversion data.

    Stay the course, content marketer.

    If you are the leader of this effort, staying the course, and encouraging others to stay the course, will be your greatest challenge during the first 6-12 months. People will consider abandoning ship. You may consider abandoning ship. Don’t do it. Instead, build a great initial plan, prepare yourself for these five content marketing truths, and then exhibit some good ol’ fashioned patience.

    If your organization is putting together a content marketing plan, and you’re feeling a little bit lost, please track us down. Right Source can help. Or if you’d like some more tips to guide your plan, download our eBook, “How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.”

    Improvement is something that each and every designer seeks. After all, improvement is growth. The moment we stop improving, is the moment we stop growing. Improving on your designing skills will not only satisfy you, but also the people you are working for, thus, ultimately boosting your confidence. Never forget that all the famous graphic designers who are making news today, were once at a stage that you are in now. You know what got them where they are today?

    Here are a few tips that can help you improve your craft as a graphic designer:

    ·         Make your own projects

    It is not that you will always have client projects. When you do not have one in your hands, do not sit idle. Instead, work on something of your own. This will enhance your creativity and sharpen your designing skills. These self-made projects can also be used as work samples that you can present to your clients. You can create fake companies and fake brands, and then use the same for creating posters, logos, websites, brochures, stationeries, etc. Do this every time you do not have a project in hand. After all, practice makes a man perfect.

    ·         Work on your previous designs

    Besides working on self-made projects, you can work on improving your previous designs. You can have it archived in your hard drive, DVD or CD. You can check them now and then and add some touches here and there to make them unique. You can also improve other people’s design. Doing so will only make you practice more, thus, taking you to the path of perfection.

    ·         Collect designs for getting inspired

    As a designer, you surely collect designs from the internet and magazines. Try to keep them in an organized manner, so that you can refer to the collection during the bad days when you reach your creative dead end. Besides, good designs also inspire you to improve your work, taking it to a higher class.

    ·         Read blogs

    Reading expert designers’ blogs can give you great ideas, help you know more about newer designing tricks and techniques, thus, helping your polish your own style. Reading experts’ blogs will provide you with whole lot of information and inspiration for enhancing your own work.

    ·         Connect with fellow designers

    Connect with veteran designers as well as amateurs like you. While the former can advice and suggest you on designs, the latter is whom you can share your ideas with and get their friendly helpful feedback.

    ·         Be an active part of online design communities

    There are several online design communities out there for you to join. In fact, doing so is almost necessary, because it keeps you updated with all the recent trends in the world of graphic designing. Besides, you can also request for feedbacks from other designers in the communities. Their inputs can be used for enhancing your skills, which you can use for your projects.

    ·         Take pictures

    A good designer should have a knack for photography. It is not that the two are directly connected. But it is just that photography inspires designs. You can take pictures of anything that interests you like, art, buildings, places, etc. If you have the true designing streak in you, you can frame ideas from the photographs that you have taken.

    Sometimes it seems like big brand pages have it easy on Facebook. With such large audiences it looks easy to have a successful online presence. However for small businesses there are still lessons to be learned from bigger brands on Facebook. This article focuses on two fashion/beauty brands who can teach us all a lesson in Facebook marketing.

    Lots of brands in the fashion and beauty industries have, not surprisingly, become well-regarded trendsetters in social media marketing. How do I, a thirty-something man know this? Because several women in my office “force” me to look at how businesses are promoting their campaigns – on Facebook and beyond — in innovative and exciting ways

    Here are some recent campaigns from two such brands. Your business does not have to be in the fashion and/or beauty industry for these campaigns to inspire.

    Kate Spade New York: Driving Direct Revenue with Flash Sales

    Fans of Kate Spade New York’s (KSNY) Facebook Page know that one of the greatest perks of following the brand is that KSNY frequently hosts surprise flash sales. With the potential of snagging a designer bag for up to 75 percent off, this tactic keeps their fans on their toes.

    Hosting surprise sales is a tried and true strategy for KSNY; the company has been using it for the past few years. In a 2011 interview with Mashable, KSNY’s CEO Craig Leavitt was asked: “What sort of return on your [social media] investment have you seen? And how do you measure it? Is it about sales or engagement?” He responded by saying, “Primarily we’re looking to grow our consumer base and our followers, and ensuring that they remain engaged with us, which is the most important part. That said, we are looking at how to drive more direct revenue. We’ve offered special sales and previews on items to Facebook fans in the past, and we’ll look to do more of that in the future.” And they have.

    So how does KYNY pull off promoting a successful flash sale on Facebook? Here’s a look:

    First, they create an action-gated page. Action-gating is when you ask users to do something (like share a piece of information about themselves) in order to get something (like access to a promotion) from your brand.

    At KSNY, in order for fans to gain access into their flash sale, they must first share their email address and zip code.

    3 Big Lessons You Can Learn from Successful Brands on Facebook

     

    The above page is not hosted on KSNY’s website, but on a subdomain of their website. What this means is that only people who follow KSNY on Facebook and see their surprise sale posts get to take advantage of the offer.

    Second, they use eye-catching images for their Facebook posts. The images KSNY uses for their Facebook posts that promote their flash sales are bright and send a clear message: It’s flash sale time!



    3 Big Lessons You Can Learn from Successful Brands on Facebook

     

    While it would be a stretch to say KSNY’s surprise sales are the sole reason for the company’s recent growth (their direct-to-consumer sales increased 29 percent in the first quarter of 2014,according to MarketWatch) small and consistent social tactics — like sharing with fans a limited-time-only offer — can add up to make a big impact on a brand’s bottom line.

    Benefit Cosmetics: Creating Hype for a New Product

    Benefit Cosmetics has spent the past month creating a lot of hype for a product that has yet to hit store shelves. Instead of shipping their new product, “they’re Real! push-up liner,” directly to their retailers and brick-and-mortar stores, Benefit gave their fans the chance to buy the product first. Benefit Cosmetics’ core audience knows new and popular beauty products have a tendency to sell out quickly, so this campaign targets them perfectly.

    Implementing an “early access” campaign not only created a ton of awareness for Benefit Cosmetics’ soon-to-released product, it also gave the beauty brand the opportunities to gauge fan interest in the product and even forecast how sales would be once the product was officially launched. Since their month-long awareness push has recently wrapped, it’s likely they know now if they have a star or a dud product on their hands.

    To promote their “they’re Real! push-up liner” early-access campaign, Benefit Cosmetics used their social channels to drive traffic to a microsite (aka their campaign’s “hub”) to educate their fans more about the product and collect leads.



    3 Big Lessons You Can Learn from Successful Brands on Facebook

     

    To drive as much traffic as possible to their campaign’s hub, Benefit Cosmetics concentrated their messaging across all of their social channels, but mostly on their Facebook Page, for over a month. They did this by updating their cover photo and posting repeated status updates (12 in all) about their “they’re Real! push-up liner.”



    3 Big Lessons You Can Learn from Successful Brands on Facebook

     



    3 Big Lessons You Can Learn from Successful Brands on Facebook

    3 Lessons You Can Learn From These Campaigns

    These are just examples of two brands that are marketing on Facebook in unique ways. If you’re interested in employing their tactics, remember:

    1. Keep your messaging focused throughout your campaign’s time period. On Facebook, businesses can be hesitant to post one type of message more than once — they might fear their fans will find the messaging monotonous. But when you’re running a campaign, this should not be a concern. Here’s why: The organic reach of a Facebook post often reflects a very small fraction of business’s fanbase. Meaning, you could share a handful of posts that a large percentage of your fans will never see.

    On the flipside, if your fans do see the same message from your brand multiple times, consider it a good thing. In advertising there’s a term called effective frequency, it represents the number of times a person must be exposed to a message they respond to it and before repeated exposure is considered wasteful. Another definition of the term comes from Business Dictionary. There, effective frequency is defined as a theory that a consumer has to be exposed to an ad at least three times within a purchasing cycle to buy a product.

    2. Build your campaign on a webpage, independent of any one platform. Creating a unique webpage or “hub” for your campaign makes managing and promoting your campaign easy. Instead of hosting your campaign on a social platform where you have to abide by their promotion rules and guidelines, make your own rules and customize the type of entry and sharing features you want.

    3. Collect data from people who engage with your campaign. Collecting data in the form of email addresses and other contact information is one of the biggest values of running a campaign. The type and amount of data you collect during a campaign can provide your business with some amazing customer insight, as well as help your brand gauge the overall success (or return) of your campaign.

    Readers, are there any campaigns from successful brands that have inspired you lately? If so, please tell me about them in the comments below.

    This article originally appeared as a guest post on Neil Schaffer’s blog Maximize Social Business on June 19, 2014.