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 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


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


  • 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 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.


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+ 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.


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.


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.


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:

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The best way to pitch a content marketing plan to your boss

Man pitching a baseball – how to pitch your content marketing plan to your boss

‘Content marketing’s just touchy feely nonsense. How does it make me money?’

Sound familiar?

Whether you’re contending with a view like this or you have a slightly more receptive boss, you need to make a solid business case for your content marketing plan and use the pitch to show how it will grow your business. The ‘everyone else is doing it’ defence won’t fly.

Sure, content marketing is not as showy and in-your-face as traditional marketing techniques; it’s not about immediate wins and it does take planning and hard work, but that doesn’t stop it from being the most cost-effective method to boost traffic, drive conversions and increase sales. You just need to prove it.

The top business benefits of content marketing

Start with the general benefits of content marketing:

  • It all adds up. Anything outbound can do, inbound can do better, and there are a host of stats to back it up. For example, inbound marketing costs 61 percent less per lead than traditional outbound techniques. And, per dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately three times as many leads as conventional marketing.
  • The long game. The beauty of content marketing is that once you’ve created the content, you own it. So, while you might not reap the benefits immediately, you’re building a repository of high quality, persona-driven content that will boost your SEO and continue to attract visitors and convert leads long after publishing. You can also repurpose any of your own content, turning a series of blog posts into an eBook or tweeting little snippets of older content, to further extend its shelf life.
  • Thinking ahead. Over time, content marketing helps you position your company as a thought leader and industry expert. By creating a wealth of interesting, useful content, you earn a position of trust with your customer and can become a respected influence in their research and evaluation process (meaning they’re more likely to do business with you).
  • Tuning in. Unlike traditional marketing techniques, the ROI and success of content marketing can be quantified. By tracking visitor behaviour and sign up and conversion rates, you can assess the impact of each channel and piece of content you use. Analysing your marketing efforts and using A/B testing to improve them, allows you to fine tine your marketing strategy so you’re not blowing effort and money on costly dead ends. Ultimately, content marketing gives you much more control over your spending.

Building a sound content marketing plan

Next, you need to weave these general business benefits into a content marketing plan that will help you reach your particular business goals.

Start by asking yourself the following questions: What are your goals? Who are you targeting? And what do you hope the content will drive them to do?

This means looking at the current performance of your company’s marketing to identify the weaknesses content marketing could address. You may want to reduce the cost per lead or better target a particular segment of your market.

You need to pinpoint your audience with some buyer personas to understand who your content will need to resonate with and how.

With these goals and personas in hand, you can start to brainstorm content ideas and map out a rough editorial calendar, focusing on keywords and pain points that will not only attract your ideal customers but also prompt them to travel further down your sales funnel.

You should use the calendar to layout how much and what sort of content you’ll be publishing week to week, establish where the responsibility lies – what percentage will you create in house and how much will you outsource to freelancers and agencies – and ensure that you’re mapping content to your sales funnel. You might have lots of content to attract visitors to your website, but what about the more in-depth content to nudge leads and close deals?

Armed with the tangible benefits of content marketing and a solid content marketing plan, you’re not only ready to show your boss how content marketing will work for your business, but you’re also ready to hit the ground running when your boss gives you the go ahead.

Hat tip to Ed Schipul for the photo

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Understanding the dangers of short-termism in marketing

short-termism in marketing: short term or long term sign

Most of us have likely heard of short-termism in terms of markets, investments and even as one of the causes of the recent economic crisis.

For a long time, business leaders have been focused on delivering immediate profits to shareholders without thinking about the long-term impacts of their actions.

Unfortunately, short-termism has become an ‘entrenched feature’ of British business, according to a recent report for the Labour Party: it has become so pervasive that it now influences the way most departments act within businesses – even those not directly connected to accounting or investment.

Short-termism in marketing

Marketing is a prime example of where short-termism – a focus on quarterly budgets and monthly lead conversion – rules even at the risk of long-term costs.

The problem is that the narrow focus of short-termism does not maximise profits by thoroughly tapping customer loyalty and satisfaction opportunities, but instead leads to customer churn, which destroys loyalty and strengthens competitors while raising customer acquisition and maintenance costs and lowering profitability. – The Marketing Century

Trust takes time to build

The aim of marketing shouldn’t be to make a quick sell; rather it’s about establishing yourselves as trusted advisors. You want potential customers to come to rely on you for advice and answers so that when they come to search for the product or service you sell, you are the obvious choice (and continue to be so as they upgrade or grow).

‘When customers can share their experiences electronically with millions, customer trust becomes a business necessity—and a divining rod for any company‘s long-term success,’ argue Peppers and Rogers in their recent battle-cry against short-termism, Rules to Break and Laws to Follow.

Thinking purely about getting in enough leads to convert this quarter means you are focusing too much on those customers near the bottom of the sales funnel and ignoring all those potential folks that could be filling up the top of the funnel. Of course, ignoring them means each quarter it will become harder to fulfil those conversion quotas as you’ve built up no real base to nurture them from.

Relationships have to be maintained

Short-termism in marketing also tends to mean you are focused on luring customers in and pay no attention to them once they’ve signed on the dotted line. In fact, it is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, meaning if you were to look ahead a little you’d see that today’s customer could be tomorrow’s repeat customer, or upgrade opportunity. That’s when you’ll realise they’re worth paying attention to.

Delighting customers with relevant educational material and targeted advice means investing in copy and collateral that may not bring a return for a few quarters, maybe even a year or two, but when it does come, that return could be a lot higher than any short-term customer acquisition tactic’s return.

Content marketing combats short-termism

‘The grandees of marketing, people like George Day, Philip Kotler and Ted Levitt taught companies how marketing must create value for customers before it can create value for shareholders five decades ago,’ says Graham Hill.

The increasingly popular practice of content-driven inbound marketing brings the focus back to value for the customer and potential customer. Content isn’t created with products or features in mind, but education, advice and a genuine interest in making your buyer personas‘ lives easier, more productive and more profitable.

It’s about relationships, trust and loyalty.

Gradually broaden your horizons

Switching from short- to long-term thinking in your marketing strategies won’t be easy. Most likely it will be a gradual process of building up collateral and starting to track your leads and customers over the entirety of their research and buying journey. It will also require a stronger, more collaborative relationship with sales and developing reports that detail return on investment on a longer (but ultimately more profitable) timescale.

Take comfort though: it might sound hard, but overcoming short-termism in marketing is worth it. As addiction specialist Chris Johnstone says:

Addiction is a pathological attachment to something attractive in the short term, but destructive over time. Recovery is about looking where we’re going and choosing a path that can last.

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