How to mediate between clients and creators more effectively

Girl screaming – how to mediate between clients and creators more effectively

Life isn’t easy as an account manager in a marketing firm. Acting as the go-between trying to mediate between clients and creatives can leave you feeling a bit like James Dean, here.

James Dean in 'Rebel Without a Cause'

Client says one thing, creative says another. The client mulls over an idea for months and then suddenly decides they need it by the end of the week, leaving you to break the bad news to the art department or the overworked copywriters. These scenarios probably sound familiar.

But these tensions are an opportunity for you to shine. You can inspire your team, set your client’s expectations, pull in external resources (ahem, like Articulate - yes, we love working with other agencies) and help to deliver the job on time and with everyone’s egos intact. You’re the gatekeeper of great content.

Stressful as it is, with the right approach you can avoid the hassle and the headaches and be mediating like a Jedi master within no time.

To begin at the beginning

Introduce client and creator, whether in-house or external, and get them together in a meeting from the very start, even as the client is developing their objectives, so everyone’s on the same page from the get-go. Everything’s rosy at the start so that’s the best time to deal with potential problems. Reduce risk with a pre-mortem.

If you can’t organise a meeting, try to at least provide the creative with some email threads and minutes that show the client’s thought process behind the project. This kind of context helps people understand seemingly arbitrary decisions.

Having the client and the creative only meet when something actually needs doing, or not at all, can result in the content missing the mark and having to be reworked. Although this isn’t anything a good brief can’t solve.

Good brief!

Excellent content and a fast turnaround depend on a good brief. You need to be sure about what the client wants, when they want it and how they want it, and convey that to the creative clearly.

That’s not to say, however, that the brief should state explicitly what the creative has to do; it should just be sure of its aims and whom it wants to reach, otherwise the creator is just running blind and is far less likely to realise what the client had in mind.

Practically, this means providing the creatives with the client’s existing collateral, house style guides and buyer personas, alongside the brief, to keep the tone and messaging of the content on the right course.

Half-baked ideas and flimsy timescales create nothing but a lot of unnecessary rework and frustration when the creative is suddenly expected to write War and Peace by Wednesday. As I’ve said before, realistic and definite deadlines are necessary but they’re no replacement for good planning.

Knowing me, knowing you

As an agency, it helps having a good mix of in-house talent and external content creation partners, whether freelancers or other specialist agencies, each with their own particular skills.

This not only makes you much more flexible as an agency, but it also helps you to create client and creative couplings that gel, rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, making everyone’s life a little bit easier.

You may not be able to predict when your client’s deadline crises will occur but you can prepare for them. Building that creative team before you put it to the test is essential. Find trusted suppliers, contractors and employees before you need them. Test your communication systems in advance. Meet them when the heat is off so you understand them better when the kitchen gets hot. Better to be Ferran Adria – cool, calm and collected – than Gordon Ramsey.

All in the same boat

Finally, obvious, but frequently forgotten, remember that everyone – you, the client and the creative – is working toward the same goal: generating great content that attracts customers and makes everyone look good.

This should be an egoless business – no point scoring, no hissy fits, no grudges. Sure, frustrating, stupid mistakes will be made, but everyone’s human. Ego-less feedback is essential

And this is the key to mediation enlightenment. Building long-term relationships with clients and external content creative agencies means that everyone gets a feel for each other’s tics, foibles and working practices, making the whole process a lot less painless and your job a whole lot simpler.

Hat tip to greg westfall for the photo, and to giphy.com for the gif.

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Better together: why you shouldn’t take on content marketing alone

Lonely horse rider in misty forest – why you shouldn't take on content marketing alone

Braving content marketing alone is a bad move. Needing to consistently generate amazing content that stimulates conversations with customers and drives up leads and sales isn’t easy; it’s a full-time, multi-disciplinary job that calls for consistency, sound strategy and collaboration.

Not seeing the wood for the trees

The biggest problem with going it alone is putting too much emphasis on the ‘content’ and not enough on the ‘marketing’.

Content marketing is not just about generating content; it’s a process, and each piece of content needs to fit into this process to nurture leads and guide them down the funnel, driving up sales and increasing retention.

You need to know what your or your client’s goals are, whom you’re targeting and what sort of content and messaging is going to get you there. And each piece of content needs to be related to a particular persona and a particular stage in the buying cycle, employing targeted calls-to-actions and landing pages to drive conversions on the back of the content.

Losing sight of your clients’ strategy and objectives and getting caught up in aimless content creation is a no-no.

Who made you the expert?

Content marketing requires more than a few blog posts and a white paper or two; it means infographics, first-rate research, webinars, social media smarts, podcasts, planning and writing skills, eBooks, videos… The point is, few agencies have the ability to master all aspects of content marketing so you’ll need to outsource a lot of the talent, whether it’s designers for infographics or copywriters for written content.

Similarly, you’ll need content creation partners who know their stuff and can deliver content that resonates with the audience; you need subject matter experts. Maybe you have some expertise in the hospitality industry, but you’ll have a hard time writing for the customers of your clients in the technology industry.

Having a good handful of content creation partners, each with their own skills and specialisms, makes you much more flexible as an agency, making you and your clients look good.

A fresh pair of eyes

As well as the industry expertise, bringing in a content creation partner also gives you a fresh perspective.

While they should have a good grasp of the industry, they probably won’t know the ins and outs and lingo of the products and services, but neither will your client’s customers.

They can see the product as a new customer, picking out the most important benefits and features and communicating them more effectively. They turn the jargon and hype into persuasive, engaging content.

Hitting ‘publish’ is just the beginning

But handing over the content to the client is not the end of the journey.

Content needs to be social and active. It needs to be promoted, it needs to be spread and it needs to encourage conversation. That means experimenting with different content types and social networks to see what sticks and what doesn’t and re-purposing content – blog posts into an eBook, webinar into a white paper – to increase its reach and shelf life.

You then need to monitor it with analytics tools – what are the most popular topics? Where is it being shared? How many leads and customers has it generated? – to refine your efforts.

Why shouldn’t I take on content marketing alone?

Because it’s time consuming, it’s not as easy as it looks and it demands a smorgasbord of skills.

Content marketing should be a holistic, joined-up strategy involving everything from planning and publishing to web page design and analytics. So to take full advantage of content marketing and deliver the most for your clients you need to collaborate.

You need to work with your clients early in the process, even as they’re developing their personas and strategy, to get a feel for their needs and better determine what can be completed in-house and what should be outsourced to content creation partners.

Taking this sort of collaborative approach from the get-go gives you a flexibility and scope far greater than you’d have alone.

Hat tip to net_efekt for the photo

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Apple, Google and you: How to create a distinctive tone of voice for your startup

Tone of voice: pink start standing out amongst grey starts

Having a tone of voice helps you tell a story. This matters. Marketing isn’t about an individual service or a product feature; it’s about your customer’s story and where your company fits into that story. As Matthew has said, ‘At heart, marketing is talking to buyers about things that matter to them using their words.’

We’ve already covered how to sit down and actually write your tone of voice guidelines: research, templates, balance and more. But that alone won’t guarantee something distinctive. This post is all about that extra edge; the je ne sais quois that will get people talking about Apple, Google and you.

Talk to your tribe

tone of voice: west side story gang gif

You need to figure out your buyer personas in order to create an effective tone of voice. You need to know both who you are as a company and who your tribe is. This goes beyond simple semantics. It means the energy and ideals you emulate through your tone, which people can identify with and feel at home with.

Simon Sinek talks at length in his ‘Start with why‘ presentation about the need to understand why your company does what it does. Not how you do it, or what you do, but why. He discusses Apple as a perfect example of a company that started with ‘why’ when building out their tone and messaging. Why do they exist? To challenge the status quo. To ‘think different’. People are Apple fans not because they love the computer, but because they identify with a tribe of people who want to empower the individual.

Your tone of voice has to serve as proof of your why in order to resonate with your tribe. ‘The most basic human desire on the planet is to feel like we belong,’ argues Sinek, and when you find that community of people who believe what you believe, you feel trust. And trust is vital if you want people to not only buy, but believe in and promote the what that proves your brand’s why.

Be consistent or look clueless

tone of voice: clueless gif
The thing about companies like Apple and Google is that even if they change how they make their money or alter what their product focus is, they are still Apple and Google. You still know who they are even if you don’t know exactly what they do. That’s because they keep their tone of voice and the culture that informs it consistent.

Think of your brand identity as a person, advises Nigel Edginton-Vigus.

They each have their own conversational quirk, a personality, something that makes them different or unique. If you’re a brand, if you can actually identify and recognise what that quirk or what that affectation or what that point of difference really is that will naturally give you your tone of voice.

People (well trustworthy and likeable people at least) don’t change their personality every five minutes, and neither should you. If you have a tone of voice that changes with every industry whim and fashion people will be wary that you’re just in the market for a quick buck. Being consistent with your tone of voice means people can come to trust that they’ll always get the same quality of customer service, value for money or whatever other benefit you offer. The last thing you want to appear is flakey and untrustworthy.

Don’t do quirky for the sake of it

Tone of voice: lego gif with confused character

It’s incredibly tempting to look at companies like Innocent or even Google, with their not the usual yada yada, and think being a bit fun and ‘different’ is the way to create a distinctive tone of voice. You couldn’t be more wrong. Doing quirky for the sake of it will completely confuse your customers and audience. You can only be quirky if you’re quirky through and through as a company. And even the companies you think of as quirky have to work very hard to get the tone of voice right; perhaps harder because of the risk of overshooting the mark and ending up with silly, trite or glib.

Say you provide a specialist banking app to the leading financial institutions. You are experts in security and compliance and your actual product is top notch. Then you start putting out blog posts and product descriptions that make jokes and take digs at all ‘that crazy regulatory stuff!’ Your customers will have no idea what you’re talking about and you will undermine the very core of who you are as a company. Tone of voice has to aid understanding and communication, not hinder it.

Be influenced, but don’t imitate tone of voice

tone of voice: man copying a cat

Don’t be a copycat. Or for that matter copy cats. Sure that GIF’s funny, but the guy also looks ridiculous. He is not a cat. Why is he meowing? Companies like Apple and Google are great for inspiring the idea of a tone of voice, but you shouldn’t listen to them when it comes to what your voice actually sounds like.

If you are too heavily influenced by another company, even if you feel they are part of your tribe and they emulate the same ideals as you, your voice simply won’t be distinctive. You need to keep digging to find what differentiates you. Where your heart is.

Of course, once you find it, then all you need to do is shout, whisper or sing as confidently as you can.

(Hat tip to giphy.com for the gifs)

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How to streamline your social media strategy

Streamlined motorcycle – how to streamline your social media strategy

Firing out a few tweets and Facebook posts with links to your blog is not a social media strategy.

A good social media strategy takes planning, consistency and a bit of elbow grease. But by doing it the smart way you can increase leads, conversions and sales without sacrificing too much time and effort.

This is how you get more with less.

Identify your goals and audience

First and foremost, you need to establish your goals and pin down your personas.

Want to run lots of competitions? Shout about all the great stuff you’re doing? Use social media for recruiting? Want your customer service to be more responsive? Working out exactly what it is you’re looking to do with social networks will help you focus your social media strategy.

The other key is identifying who it is you’re talking to – who is you ideal audience? You should develop your buyer personas to determine your audience’s main challenges and what they want to hear.

Armed with your objectives and personas, you can single out the social media platforms your ideal customers use and focus your activity on them.

Keep a content calendar

A sound social media strategy begins with the content.

It might sound like a lot of work, but if you plan first and suss out monthly themes and messaging in advance, you’ll save time down the line as you’ll know who needs to write what when.

You should also establish your post-publication sharing process. Where are you going to share your content? What soundbites and snippets can you use from the piece? What time are you going to share it?

Know your channels

Not all social media channels are created equal, so customise and target content to each platform. You can’t stretch a tweet-sized piece of copy across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc – it’s a waste of everybody’s time.

You need to know what works where. Twitter, for instance, is very useful for asking questions and reacting to customers quickly, while pictures are the preserve of Instagram and Pinterest. But, saying that, images win on most channels; Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets and photos on Facebook attract 53 percent more likes and 104 percent more comments than the average post.

Each channel also has optimal posting times. While you should concentrate your LinkedIn posts around 7AM to 9AM and 5PM to 6PM, Tumblr posts are most effective between 7PM and 10PM.

Follow the 10:4:1 rule

Fortunately, not all of your posts have to link to your own content. In fact, according to HubSpot’s 10:4:1 rule, 10 out of every 15 posts should link to content created by others.

This could be a news story related to your industry; a cool fact, stat or infographic; a quotation from an industry leader; an upcoming industry event; a helpful resource – whatever it is, it should be relevant, from a reputable source and it should resonate with your personas.

Recycle your content

Once you’ve built up a nice back catalogue of content, don’t be afraid to recycle your own content to give it a new lease of life.

Particularly on fast-moving channels like Twitter, where the half life of a link is about 2.8 hours, posting the same thing more than once is essential if you want it to stay visible. Just make sure you write a different preamble to make it less repetitive.

You should also listen to your social media channels to see what’s trending. You may well have written a blog post a couple of months or years ago that’s suddenly relevant again.

Tinker, test and try your way to a super social media strategy

Of course, this is just a rough guide; the best way to hone your social media strategy and find the right formula is to put on your science hat and start experimenting and measuring. The more data you have, the easier it is to spot patterns and find what works best for you and your audience.

Hat tip to lord enfield for the photo.

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5 essential marketing metrics you should be measuring

Ruler – essential marketing metrics you should be measuring

There are metrics, and then there are metrics.

Katelyn’s already talked about the dangers of pursuing vanity metrics – those that look pretty in a quarterly report yet tell you very little about the effectiveness of your marketing efforts – but what about the essential marketing metrics you really ought to be measuring?

Why the right metrics make a difference

Simply knowing your page views and click-throughs is not enough; isolated data points might go down well in status meetings, but they can’t really tell you if you’re getting a good ROI from your marketing spend.

You need metrics that tell a story and show you a more detailed picture of your marketing efforts.

Using web and marketing analytics tools, like Google Analytics, HubSpot Analytics, KISSmetrics and Clicky, you can track and dig down into the metrics that will help you to understand the customer journey and identify what sort of content and which channels are contributing to the bottom line.

But what, exactly, should you be measuring?

The five essential marketing metrics

  • Revenue. Looking at how much revenue each channel is actually generating gives you a more objective way of identifying your most effective channels. This both justifies your continued investment in successful channels and allows you to reroute funds from less successful ones to experiment with other tactics.
  • Cost per lead. Rather than using this as a general figure, filter it down to establish the cost per lead for each channel and identify which are the most cost effective. You shouldn’t, however, cut back a channel simply because it costs more per lead; you might find that customers from that channel spend more or more often than customers from another, less costly channel.
  • Website traffic to lead ratio. Page views and unique visitor numbers might look good in a report but they can’t tell you much. Look to see where visitors are actually coming from – direct, referral or organic – what they’re doing when they arrive and how many are being converted into leads and customers. If you want to break it down further, define your marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) to establish the quality and readiness of the leads you’re generating.
  • Landing page conversion rates. This helps you establish whether your content and landing pages are resonating with your personas. You can then tinker with them, changing each bit at a time to see what clicks – is it the wrong offer? Could the wording and layout be improved? Should the ‘download’ button be more obvious? You can then breakdown your leads based on which offer/s they’ve completed.
  • Customer lifetime value and churn rate. Knowing how many customers you have is all well and good, but how much and how often are they buying? And for how long do they remain a customer? If you’re losing customers or they’re only making one-off purchases, you need to work on your post-purchase nurturing. Content marketing means more than just buttering up leads.

Converting analytics into action

Of course, stats mean nothing if you don’t do something with them.

Measuring these metrics should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Getting to the people and journeys behind the numbers delivers insights that help you to patch up the leaky funnel and direct investment into the most successful methods more intelligently.

Hat tip to Josep Ma. Rosell for the photo

 

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6 eye-opening marketing insights for non-marketers

Marketing insights: Women's eyes looking upwards

Over the last decade, my company, Articulate Marketing, has written marketing content for some of the biggest stars in the tech firmament including Microsoft, Symantec, LinkedIn and others.

Across nearly all clients and over many years, it’s become clear to me that product managers (usually technical people) and marketers (usually not) are ‘two peoples divided by a common language’.

While my job is to go into companies and talk fluent geek to the techies and then translate it into everyday business English, in this article, I’m going to attempt the opposite: explaining the world of marketing to non-marketers. Or at least, six marketing insights that are often new to them.

Features aren’t enough, tell a story

Telling somebody that your product has 48 Megafloodles won’t help them make a purchase decision if they don’t know what it means for them. Even if your competitors only have 24 Megafloodles, who cares? You need to tell a story about what your product can do for the buyer. At heart, marketing is talking to buyers about things that matter to them using their words. Here are two Apple examples that tell a story in a few words.

Apple MacBook Air ad

Apple Mac Pro ad

Heuristics matter

In some cases, features have become a proxy for something that buyers do care about. For example, camera megapixels signify picture quality and horsepower numbers signify car performance; even though experts know that lenses, sensors, handling and torque, among other things matter more.

People use these short cuts and heuristics to simplify the buying process. If your marketing is really good, they’ll also use them to champion your products to their friends and colleagues. (Just think about the first time somebody showed you an iPhone or some other cool gadget – they didn’t get the spec sheet out, they showed you a couple of things it could do.)

Marketers know that if you try to talk about everything, you’re saying nothing. The skill of marketing is finding 1-3 things that really differentiate your product or service and find clever ways to communicate them well. For example Nokia work hard to turn their incredible 41 megapixels into a message about ‘sheer perfection in every shot’.

Nokia Camera Phone 41MP

Proof points

Google’s great insight is that people don’t want to look at ten web pages to find what they are looking for. In an ideal world, they go straight from Google to the one site that is a perfect fit.  The ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button on the Google home page just takes you directly to the first site on the list of search results. People rarely click on it but it’s a proof point of Google’s commitment to finding the perfect result quickly. It tells a story about Google’s mission.

Google 'I'm feeling lucky' button

What’s your company or product’s proof point? (Hint: it’s not a technical feature although most people think proof points are nothing more than a kind of specification.)

People buy from companies they trust

Used car salesman, estate agents and politicians have a bad reputation because we assume they are lying to us. Human beings have a preference for trustworthy business partners. Trust takes time to build but, with copywriting and websites, there are some easy ways to lose it:

  • Unwarranted swagger, hype and bogus claims
  • Talking about yourself and not addressing customer’s needs
  • Spelling mistakes and bad design (which looks like you don’t care)
  • Trying to sound big and clever with long words and jargon

Most people aren’t ready to buy yet

You spend a lot of time thinking about your company, your work and your products. You probably spend more time doing that than anything else except sleeping. But don’t let that blind you to the four golden rules of the customer journey:

  • People spend more time thinking about their problems than your products – you need to talk about their issues using their words
  • They spend (much) more time looking at other people’s websites than yours – you need to make your point quickly
  • Most potential customers are not ready to buy yet – you need to build their trust, create a relationship and engage their interest first
  • They don’t see your products the same way you do. For example, they probably don’t obsess about your competitors the way you do so concentrate more on explaining what you can do for your customer and less on how you have more features than your rivals.

Names matter (but not that much)

Of course a memorable name is important but most of the great names you’re thinking of didn’t start out as memorable. Apple has a memorable name, sure, but where is near-contemporary Apricot Computers now? Equally, having a great name doesn’t make a lousy product memorable or a company successful. Just think of all those clever word play dot.com names from the late nineties. Moreover, as the naming geniuses at Igor explain, lots of memorable names might have lousy connotations.

Virgin Atlantic

  • Says “we’re new at this”
  • Public wants airlines to be experienced, safe and professional
  • Investors won’t take us seriously
  • Religious people will be offended

Caterpillar

  • Tiny, creepy-crawly bug
  • Not macho enough – easy to squash
  • Why not “bull” or “workhorse”?
  • Destroys trees, crops, responsible for famine

Oracle

  • Unscientific
  • Unreliable
  • Only foretold death and destruction
  • Only fools put their faith in an Oracle
  • Sounds like “orifice” – people will make fun of us

In short, the company makes the name, the name does not make the company. Better to concentrate on being memorable than concentrate on coming up with a better name. Courage is more valuable than consensus.

Marketing insights for life

Good marketing isn’t about the things that people normally think it is about: clever names, sneaky wordplay or selling hard. It’s about trust, storytelling, relationship building and putting your head above the parapet and seeing what’s out there. And that’s better for marketers, it’s better for companies and it’s better for customers.

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Join the conversation: making the most of social media marketing

Join the conversation - making the most of social media marketing

Every social media platform has proven effective to marketers in some way, but to experience these benefits, you must have a social media strategy in place.

Social media done the right way follows the same principles as networking in person. For it to be effective, you not only have to attend the right events with the right people, but you also have to know how to make conversation happen.

Dave Kerpen of Likeable Media says, ‘At a cocktail party, you wouldn’t walk up to someone and say, “Hey, I’m Dave. My stuff is 20 percent off.” What you do is ask questions, tell stories, listen and relate to people.’

A social media strategy that works considers three elements: well-executed posts in front of the right audience specific to each platform.

Social media marketing starts with buyer personas

Buyer personas identify not only who your ideal buyers are and what they need, but also what sites they frequent. The platforms you choose and the content you post will all be based on these buyer personas so they need to be in place from the start.

Once you understand which networks your ideal buyers use, it’s vital to understand why they are using that network so you know what to say and how to say it.

Content as a conversation starter

Quality content on your blog and curated content from others in your industry gives you what you need to start the conversation on social media.

Content is an opportunity to address common customer problems, industry news, best practices and more, which will establish your company’s credibility and build trust between buyer and brand. But your content on social media will fall flat if you don’t understand how to present it.

Watch your tone

How you address your ideal buyers on social media will change depending on the platform. To figure out how to join the conversation on different networks, you need to understand the difference between tone and voice.

  • Tone is how you speak to your ideal buyer.
  • Voice is your brand’s personality.

Tone changes. Voice does not. To build trust with your ideal buyer, your brand’s personality needs to be consistent, transparent and authentic. To engage, your tone must be appropriate to the platform.

Voice and tone are tricky because you can’t give your social media a personality test. But just because you can’t measure it doesn’t mean it’s not important. You have to know who you are going to be as a company and as a brand.

Adapting your company voice

Once you establish the voice and personality of your brand, you have to adapt your voice to meet the tone of the platform. This is done by examining the purpose of each platform.

Guy Kawasaki gives a breakdown of the purpose behind the major platforms, but to have an effective social media strategy, you have to understand the link between purpose and tone.

Facebook

Facebook is for connecting with the people you know. In business, your audience is made of those that have ‘liked’ your page. Since these are people your brand ‘knows,’ the tone you use with your fans should be friendly and conversational.

Twitter

In 140 characters, your tweets give followers a perception of your brand’s personality. While brevity is key, finding the right conversation is in the hashtag. Include hashtags relevant to your topic and industry to make yourself searchable to your buyers.

Google+

Google+ differs from Facebook in that instead of focusing on who you know, its emphasis is on shared passions. Your tone must be informative and inspiring.

Pinterest

Pinning is highly visual, but images can carry tone the same way words do. You need a concrete, quality image to catch the buyer’s eye.

LinkedIn

This network is for building your credibility with other business people. Your tone should be professional and your content should be relevant to the industry.

Whether on these major networks or others, tone should always adapt to the purpose of the network and to who you are trying to reach.

Joining the conversation on social media

Understanding the basic, sometimes subtle differences between the major social networks helps you better strategize how to speak to your ideal buyer on each platform.

Social media marketing isn’t simply a matter of choosing one platform over the other. It’s a matter of forming a complete strategy that includes the platforms that target your ideal buyers and understanding the best way to join the conversation on each one.

(Hat tip to Jason Howie for the photo)

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How we work: Pair writing

Inspired by the extreme programming movement, at Articulate we put two writers on every project in a process we call ‘pair writing‘. They do research interviews together, then one writes and the other edits, flipping back and forth until the copy is just so.

Pair writing at Articulate Marketing

Pair writing: the heart of our process

Editing is an essential part of good writing: behind every great writer there is a great editor.

Ego-less feedback is an important part of a writer’s development but on a more practical level, it is almost impossible to proofread your own copy immediately after you have written it. A second pair of eyes is actually a necessity.

There’s more. Pairing people on writing projects provides other benefits:

  • Resilience. We can still hit deadlines if one person is sick because there are two people who know what’s going on.
  • Higher quality. Two brains are better than one – that’s why they put two pilots in the cockpit.
  • Shared practices.  We harmonise our working practices and share experience.
  • Training and development. Pairing a new writer with an experienced one is good mentoring.
  • Nobody is more important than the work. Everybody writes. Everybody edits. The boss gets feedback from the most junior intern and vice versa. This is our culture.
  • It’s more fun. Writing can be a lonely business. Sharing the work means you have shared experience of it.
  • Good for fact checking and sourcing. Having two people on every interview, both taking notes, means you have better coverage of what people said and better notes. This helps with getting quotes and attribution right.

Ground rules

There are some formal and some unspoken ground rules to the process:

  • Be gentle. We give feedback, not criticism.
  • Positive feedback is essential. Writers respond well to praise (who doesn’t?) so we highlight things we like and we give lots of positive feedback.
  • Change control. We use Word’s change control feature so that everyone can see what’s changed. This is a useful learning tool for new writers. For blog posts, at least in WordPress, we use the brilliant EditFlow plugin.
  • Style standardisation. We have a company style guide that covers a lot of routine questions like ‘do we use single or double quotation marks’. This is important for consistency.
  • Subediting vs. editing.  Often, an editor will make changes to the text directly. Mostly this is subediting – just light changes for style, concision or emphasis – along with proofreading. Sometimes, they will make broader changes to the structure or content of an article but this is rarer. More often, if something needs reworking or isn’t clear, we use comments to give the writer some idea of what we think is going wrong and some suggestions for improvement.
  • Version numbers. We add v1, v2, v3 and so on to the end of the file name so we can track versions. For complex pieces,  v1 is just a list of points, data and sources, v2 is a ‘shitty first draft’ and v3 is the first editable version. (And if you’re wondering, the highest we’ve gone is v22 but that was a piece that was being reviewed by HP, Microsoft and Intel’s legal departments so we had a lot of feedback to process!)
  • We take turns. Only one person works on a document at any given time and there’s a formal handover in Basecamp from one writer to another. (Committee editing in Google Apps is the opposite of this approach. If it works for you, great. But for us, it’s incredibly frustrating because there’s no ownership, accountability or versioning.)

We’re great admirers of Pivotal Labs. For them, pair programming is part of their marketing as well as being at the heart of what they do. We believe that pair writing plays the same role for us here at Articulate.

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D’oh, the vanity: 5 marketing metrics you need to stop measuring now

In a classic episode of South Park, Gnomes steal underpants as part of a business scheme that they hope will be hugely profitable. However, when the boys confront the gnomes, it’s clear that the scheme is missing a vital component: there’s no connection between the activity of stealing underpants and the longed-for profit.

It’s the same way with vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics may sound good when you say them in a conference room or include them in a quarterly report, but they don’t say anything about how your campaigns are translating into increased profit for the company.

Here are five popular vanity metrics that aren’t telling you much about the success of your marketing efforts. Beware!

1. Email open rate

When someone opens an email on their phone or other device, it doesn’t mean that they read it. It also won’t tell you if they took interest in your content. You can’t even rely totally on tracking opens, for example if users don’t have to download the tracking pixel.

Instead, focus on metrics that tell the reach and effect of your email marketing campaigns:

  • Click-through rates tell you how effective your email content is and what content you should send next.
  • Effectiveness. Measure end results that matter and see which media, including email, contributed to achieve them. You can also change your calls-to-action and links, essentially your content to be more effective.
  • Bounce rates let you know if your emails are being filtered as spam or if your contact list is outdated.
  • Unsubscribe rates. This is a crude but useful yardstick for emails that bore or turn off your potential readers and customers.

Bounce and click-through rates are valuable because you can take action to improve them. You can see cause and effect. A change in open rates could be arbitrary. And arbitrary is not how you want to run a campaign.

2. Email subscribers

Another email address added to your contact lists is exciting, but increasing your number of subscribers is meaningless if eighty out of those two hundred email addresses are outdated. An outdated list causes emails to bounce or go unviewed. It skews your perception of your reach.

The solution? Smaller, segmented lists. Different customers have different needs and motives so they need content in their inbox that speaks to them. Downsize your list to only valid email addresses and then segment those lists by networks or buyer personas.

Doing this will improve the accuracy of your email metrics. When it comes to email, shoot for measurable quality over quantity.

3. Social media followers

Having more followers doesn’t hurt your business, but your revenue doesn’t grow with your Facebook page likes. Most importantly, if any marketing firm’s only promise to you is to increase your Twitter followers, know that they can do little for you. For example, you can buy followers with competitions, games and promotions, but they might not be good prospects. Again, it’s about quality and relevance, not quantity.

Social media is a tool you can use to build trust in your brand. The number of followers may offer you the benefit of social proof, but building trust in your brand matters most when those individuals have a need for or interest in what your business does.

4. Comments

Engagement on your social media platforms and blog posts lets you know that people like your content. But whether it’s three comments or one hundred, the number of comments a post receives on social media has little bearing on your marketing goals or the company’s bottom line. Indeed, many leading bloggers, including Seth Godin, have disabled commenting altogether. (On the other hand, we love them – please tell us what *you* think!)

Instead, track who takes interest in your posts. Look at who shares them and who visits them. Social media is for delighting customers. You want your content to speak to those marketing qualified leads and aim for repeat customers. Measure your success by who is paying attention, not how much attention you’re getting.

5. Page views

Page views only become important when there is evidence that you are engaging those visitors. This is why having a call to action on each page of your blog and website is so important.

On a more basic level, tracking unique visitors as well as recency, frequency and number of pages per visitor will give you a better insight into how people are engaging with your site than page views or, even worse, ‘hits’.

When people click on your calls to action and submit a form to receive an offer, you have evidence that they were engaged in your content, but also that they are interested in you as a company-not just what you write about.

Vanity vs. action

5 marketing metrics you need to stop measuring now

Standalone numbers like those above are vanity metrics because they are easy to see and easy to count. But relying on these vanity metrics means you are failing to monitor the metrics that help you convert visitors to leads and leads into customers. You have to dig a little deeper.

Metrics need to be actionable and measurable. You must be able to act on what that number tells you and measure improvement and setbacks. If you are going to base your success on a figure, the figure has to be connected to the company’s success.

Finding the right marketing metrics

To get actionable metrics, you have to track and combine data from your website, social media, blog and even your company’s contacts. This might sound like you have to spend time you don’t have on data entry and report creation: but this isn’t so with the right tools.

Inbound marketing tools automatically track and compile data and create customised reports on marketing analytics that reveal the metrics, which relate to real customers and increased profits.

Stop looking at meaningless metrics. Look to metrics that will tell you where to take the company’s marketing next.

(Hat tip to David Goehring and Wikipedia for the images)

 

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The end of the hard sell: content marketing for salespeople

Used car salesman – content marketing guide for salesman

People hate being sold to. And the fact that there is a thriving market of products and software designed to sidestep and block ads shows just how ineffective traditional methods are.

But that doesn’t means selling is dead. It’s just changed.

Rebirth of a salesman

Nearly 60 percent of the traditional sales process has gone out of the window, according to research by Google and CEB. Customers are not waiting for companies to tell them what they need to know; they’re doing the legwork and seeking out the information themselves online, stealing the sales department’s thunder.

But it’s not all doom and gloom and death of a salesman. It’s just about shifting from the hasty hard sell to the intelligent long game by investing in a solid content marketing strategy.

Content marketing, far from its ‘arts and crafts’ image, is the next generation of selling.

Trust me, I’m a content marketer

Content marketing is about consistently creating high quality, engaging, educational content that resonates with your personas, so you not only outflank your competition by positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry, but you also take control of your customers’ research and evaluation process.

You attract more traffic and build trust between you and your audience, which is crucial. After all, when’s the last time you bought something from someone you didn’t trust?

Quality, not quantity

This means spending the time to give your audience content that they want to read/listen to/watch free before asking them to buy.

But you can’t crank the reel too quick – you’ll lose them and they won’t come back. If a visitor downloads their first eBook or white paper, don’t immediately bombard them with emails about how they should contact your sales department and what products of yours they should buy; suggest another piece of useful content.

It’s about nurturing the relationship before and after the sale to build trust, delight your customers and encourage repeat business, so consistent, high-quality content that maps to each stage of the sales cycle – awareness, evaluation, purchase, post-purchase – is key.

This isn’t a one-off sale; it’s a long-term relationship.

Compound interest with content marketing

And it’s a long-term relationship that pays dividends.

While not necessarily cheaper, content marketing is fully measurable so you can constantly sharpen your tactics as you go on, focussing on the stuff that works and giving you more control over your sales and marketing spend.

But, more than that, it has a cumulative effect that makes it more cost effective over time.

A study by Kapost and Eloqua, for example, found that content marketing delivered over three times more leads than paid search over 36 months, the cost-per-lead being $111.11 for paid search and $32.25 for content marketing.

Once you’ve created the content it’s yours and it’s there forever, which gives you a back catalogue of useful content for your audience to read and share and a growing keyword footprint that boosts your search rankings. You’ll get a steady trickle of sales-ready leads rather than a flurry of unsuspecting strangers.

Create great content and you’ll be patching up the leaky funnel and nurturing a more receptive audience that’s ready to talk, making your sales process much smoother and more successful.

Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kovacs_special_1968.JPG

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