Marketing secrets of coffee baristas: why choice matters

Marketing secrets: coffee menu

Most coffee drinkers will tell you that they like a ‘dark, rich, hearty roast,’ says Malcolm Gladwell. But if that’s what everybody wants, why is Starbucks’ menu so long?

It turns out people don’t all like the same thing. Sounds obvious, but plenty of people overlook this vital fact when it comes to building and marketing their business.

Embracing choice can be a game-changer, argues Malcolm Gladwell in his 2004 TED talk: ‘In embracing the diversity of human beings, we will find a surer way to true happiness.’ And that goes for businesses as well as customers.

You too can (and should) embrace your customers’ preferences. Whether you expand your product range or tailor your business to your customers, you can make variability work for you.

Spaghetti sauce is Gladwell’s go-to example, and while sauce is good, coffee is better, so we’re going to show you the marketing secrets you can learn from your favourite baristas.

Decaf, one-shot, skinny caramel macchiato

Thanks to Gladwells’ muse, psychophysicist Howard Moscowitz, businesses now invest much more heavily in researching what people want. It can be very insightful, as often people don’t always know what they want themselves. By accounting for these preferences, businesses have cemented customer satisfaction in old and new markets alike.

While Starbucks have subsequently mirrored this variety of desires in their products, this isn’t the only, or even the best, response. It can be as simple as remembering that you can’t please everyone.

There’s no shame in limiting your market if it means truly resonating with, and delighting, your target audience. Knowing your niche well will allow you to do this and, done correctly, will leave you with a tribe of loyal fans.

The marketing secret here? You need to know your audience to market to them.

Starbucks or Kopi Luwak?

Whether you’re the Starbucks of your sector or its ‘cat-poo coffee’ antithesis, it’s just as valuable knowing what you’re not as what you are.

For every Starbucks lover there’s someone who likes artisan coffee, and someone else who prefers tea. By knowing what your competition is doing you’ll also know what they aren’t doing, opening your business up to multiple possibilities, including success in untapped markets.

When competing for the same market, don’t be afraid of a little competition; rivalries often produce better ideas and better products.

A bit of healthy competition not only inspires better creation, but also encourages businesses to research and hone in on the particulars of their demographics. By using this knowledge you can offer what your demographics love and want to buy. This will resonate with them, so your customers will win too.

Costa advert

To drink in or take away?

That being said knowing who you are is integral to communication with your customers, because without knowing what you offer, and why people need it, how can you effectively sell it?

Just as people frequent coffee shops for certain things (comfortable sofas, location, better literature, maybe even better coffee), they buy products for specific reasons too: Quality, usability, style, portability, comfort, etc.

Your core product is important, but it’s not everything. For coffee chains, winning a taste test doesn’t necessarily mean winning the most customers. As much as anything else, industry-leader Starbucks has cashed-in on consistency, being reliably familiar the world-over, which some people care about more that than the drinks.

As with Gladwell’s spaghetti sauce example, some research could reveal elements of your product that you hadn’t considered as selling points before. Even if your product range isn’t varied, people’s reasons for buying it could be, so know what they are, and make them a part of your brand.

Fair trade or hand-made?

Speaking of brands: When people buy brands they don’t just buy them, they buy into them.

Anyone could tell you that Google isn’t the only search engine on the internet, yet neither Bing nor Yahoo inspire anywhere near the same loyalty or fandom.

This is due, at least in part, to Google’s dedication to its ethos. Google is more than just a search engine; it is a company built around innovation and connecting people to information. By keeping its gaze firmly fixed on this purpose, Google evolved into a prominent, profitable brand, operating seamlessly in multiple sectors.

Like Google, you need to look at what your business really stands for and move towards it, regardless of where it takes you. Like coffee shops, be prepared to think outside the cup.

(Hat tip to Sam Stewart Etc for the photo)

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How to use stories to communicate with clients: the dotMailer logo

image

Email marketing firm dotMailer is a British success story: AIM-listed with offices around the world. It occupies a prime spot in the email marketing automation marketplace, competing against companies like Marketo, SilverPop and ExactTarget.

However its historical roots are in the fire-and-forget batch mailing market. Over time, the platform has evolved upmarket, adding user-friendly features that make it easier to target and tailor emails to a particular audience and measure the results of each campaign.

So the big question is ‘how do we reposition the brand’ to communicate the journey from ‘batch and blast’ to ‘fully automated email marketing’? Well, according to my friend and ace designer Phil Draper, it starts with the logo. (Also, in the interests of full disclosure, dotMailer is an Articulate client.)

Logorrhea

The problem with logo projects – and I know having gone through an extended (but successful) redesign process on the Turbine logo over the last year – is that they turn into talking shops; too much talk and not enough design.

Every design marriage starts with a sweet honeymoon but it doesn’t always last. Why?

  • Business stakeholders struggle to explain what they want in terms that designers can understand so they go to what they know: brands they like and logos they know. The result? Saminess not differentiation. Fashion rather than innovation.
  • Designers, on the other hand, run the risk of compliance: they do what the client wants even though it may not be right for the project just to get the thing signed off. Or they let the project run, increasing the cost and delaying completion, as they do endless iterations. Or, worse, they get into a kind of ‘take it or leave it’ defensive stance behind a wall of design jargon.

(As an aside, my partial solution to this problem is to use mood boards on Pinterest to express my sense of what I want in addition to the traditional written brief. Also, I’ve been taking a succession of design courses with a view to learning to communicate properly with the design community.)

Story-telling as client management

Phil took a different approach with his colleagues at dotMailer. He created a presentation that took them on a journey from where they were to where they wanted to be and tied the evolution of the logo into that journey.

The brand and its competitors

He started with the evolution of the brand and what it meant to customers. He set out some brand pillars and explained what they meant to customers. For example, one pillar is ‘empowering technology’ and one user story underpinning this is ‘It’s so quick and easy that I can spend more time on other marketing tasks.’

State of the art logo design

Then he looked at how logo designs were tending towards ever-greater simplicity with before and after images of different brands.

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Seeing with a designer’s eye

He deconstructed the old logo to help his colleagues see it through his eyes.

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Font-astic

Then he showed how a new logo, with the roundel moved from the top to the left, would look in different fonts.

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Further simplification

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The next iteration put the roundel into the text and eliminated the capitalisation, making the logo even simpler. But he reckoned the ‘font is too heavy and the black is too dominant’. (But remember each stage of this journey is public and visible to his colleagues. It’s not a fait accompli.)

In the final version, the ‘colour’ of the text on the page and the actual colours used in the logo are both lighter. It’s modern and clean.

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Why it worked

  • The right communication tools. He created a presentation so that they could see what he was talking about and gave them a PDF version to review after the meeting.
  • Let me tell you a story. In 25 slides, Phil took his colleagues through the story of how the logo evolved – its journey. In doing that, he addressed the most likely questions, objections and detours. It’s a very compelling example of logical persuasion through the control of suspense.
  • Show your working. Remember when you did maths exams at school? You had to show how you solved the problem not just reveal the answer. Phil did the same, showing how he had gone through different iterations of the design and revealing his design influences.

This approach could work for all kinds of graphic design, copywriting or marketing projects. It means letting go of our ego, sharing our thinking and admitting that we don’t get to the perfect outcome instantly. When we do this, we invite our clients and shareholders into the process and earn their trust.

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8 excellent tips for keeping an editorial calendar current

8 excellent tips for keeping an editorial calendar current

An editorial calendar is a must for any marketing manager, but keeping the calendar up-to-date can be a struggle.

The team’s workload, confusion on responsibilities or inconsistent publishing can cause a perfectly good plan to fall apart. But your content marketing is too important to let the content it needs get left behind.

Your strategy for keeping an editorial calendar current needs to be in place every step of the way: from generating ideas to hitting publish.

1. Don’t cripple your calendar when you brainstorm.

Generating topics is a constant battle between having enough topics, making sure you don’t repeat topics and keeping every topic relevant to your potential buyers. To achieve the trifecta, you can:

  • Focus on personas and keywords. Your buyer personas will have keywords associated with them. Those keywords will help you brainstorm plenty of topics while staying relevant to your ideal buyer.
  • Don’t get caught in the details. Generate titles instead of whole outlines. If you start outlining each topic, you’re taking time away from generating ideas.
  • Encourage continuous brainstorming. Don’t limit ideas to one meeting. You and your staff should log ideas as they come, for example when a customer presents a particular problem or when you find a relevant article
  • Branch out. Plan to use content from outside sources to help fill your editorial calendar. Schedule guest bloggers, videos or post links to relevant articles.
  • Generate the right number of topics. When you get to the planning stage, you don’t want to come up short on topics. Know ahead of time what your publishing schedule looks like and how many topics it takes to fill it.

2. Schedule your content in advance.

It’s important that all those great ideas you generate don’t come out looking like creative vomit on your blog and social media channels. You want consistency in both publishing and content themes.

Some recommend planning an entire year at a time, but you may work best on a quarterly basis. Either way, you need to look at the big picture and plan your content long term. This allows you to capitalise on certain topics for seasons, events or holidays.

3. Include the right information in your calendar.

Again, you don’t need to outline every topic, but a well-planned editorial calendar will always contain certain information, like:

  • Title. What is the title you generated in brainstorming?
  • Buyer persona. Which buyer persona is this based on?
  • Relevant links or keywords. What inspired the topic or should be included?
  • Deadlines. When do the drafts need to be completely written and edited?
  • Publishing Date. When is the content being published?
  • Writer. Who is responsible for researching and writing the topic?
  • Editor. Who is editing the draft, fact checking, etc.?
  • Platforms. Where is this content going to be published and promoted?

You may adapt some of this to suit your agency, but your team will be more effective if they know who is responsible for which content and when it’s due.

4. Schedule deadlines before the publish date.

Schedule the final version of each piece of content to be written and edited before the date you expect to publish. This gives you breathing room in case of unexpected projects or even sickness and vacations on your team.

5. Make the calendar accessible to everyone.

The critical point of a successful editorial calendar is that it must be accessible to the whole team. Use a web-based manager like Basecamp, Asana or even Google Spreadsheets so that the whole team can look ahead to see what’s coming.

6. Stay flexible on your content.

It’s a writer’s job to generate relevant, remarkable content before the deadline even if it wasn’t in the original plan, but it’s your task to help them do that. Keep an open dialogue to make sure the content you publish is all it can be.Tweak topics, change the course of research or add in new content as it comes up.

7. Learn to anticipate busy times.

Sometimes, your staff is truly busy and lacks the capacity to write remarkably. Use your calendar to anticipate those times and sprint ahead on content writing or know when it’s time to outsource. The effect of content marketing is well-worth the resources it takes to keep up with it.

8. Make time to update the calendar regularly.

Don’t let your calendar dissolve into chaos when a few things change. Adapt your calendar as new topics are introduced or unexpected posts are published. If you’ve put your calendar in a web-based manager, this will be easy.

The success of an editorial calendar and by extension your content marketing comes down to strategy. You must be able to generate plenty of strong topics, create a plan to consistently generate content based on those topics and ensure commitment to that plan from the whole team.

(Hat tip to S.F. for the photo)

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How to have better meetings

Five dogs sitting around a table looking at a ball and saying 'perhaps we're overthinking the situation'

Do you get to the end of the day and feel like you have nothing to show for it?

You’re not alone.

Now ask yourself: ‘how much time did I spend in meetings today?’ Include:

  • Formal sit-down project review meetings
  • Marketing status meetings
  • Client phone calls
  • Ad-hoc meetings with colleagues when they drop by your desk
  • Purgatorial phone conferences

If the answer is more than three hours, you could be suffering from meetingitis.

Meetings are the opposite of work and they make you grumpy.

Six painful questions about meetings

Now here are the critical questions:

  1. Are the meetings life-enhancing experiences?
  2. Does your job description include ‘wasting time in pointless meetings’?
  3. Do you tell your friends and family, with pride, about all the wonderful meetings you were in?
  4. When you sit down with your boss for your pay review, do you tell her about your amazing doodling skills?
  5. If you had fewer, shorter meetings, would you spend the time saved on less exciting, innovative and productive work?
  6. On your death bed, will you wish that you had spent more time in meetings?

No, I didn’t think so.

Traditional meeting advice about setting an agenda and recording decisions etc is good, as far as it goes but it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter: too many meetings.

Fewer, better meetings

At Articulate, we have one stand-up meeting at the beginning of the week to plan our work and monthly one-to-ones for mentoring and development plus regular in-person get-togethers. That’s it. All our other meetings come from our clients and we don’t like to say no to them.

  • Do a time and motion study to see where your time is going. We like Toggl as a tool for doing this.
  • Replace status meetings with a weekly email status report.
  • Replace random phone calls with an IM tool like Lync or Skype.
  • Use iDoneThis or just regular emails to keep track of your own productive work and your team’s.
  • Encourage suppliers and clients to use a project management tool like Basecamp. This is what we use at Articulate and we love it when clients embrace it too.
  • Invest time in meetings that matter: one-to-one mentoring for your team, getting to know new customers, brainstorming strategy.
  • Try sending your ‘apologies’ for one meeting a week and using the time saved to focus on making real progress on a critical project.
  • If you call a lot of meetings, try trusting that your colleagues and suppliers can do their job without micromanagement.

End conference call hell

Stop using dial-in conference calls, which are an evil waste of time. Use Skype video calls, Google Hangouts or UberConference instead. Anything that is not a dial-in conference call is a better meeting.

Meeting charter template

You could also try to agree a meetings charter for your organisation so that everyone knows the rules of the game.

  • Meetings should never last more than 45 minutes.
  • We agree to stay on point and keep the side chat for later.
  • In order of preference, and depending on the context, we use Basecamp, email, Yammer, IM, Skype and then phone calls for communications.
  • However, mentoring, money and important personnel meetings (eg disciplinary meetings) are best done face to face.
  • We prepare an agenda in advance of the meeting.
  • There is always a chair who is responsible for sticking to the agenda and the timetable.
  • The best meetings end early, with clear decisions.
  • For internal meetings, rather than writing minutes, we assign Basecamp tasks to people as we go.
  • For interviews or client meetings, we take notes directly in Salesforce or Basecamp during or immediately after the meeting.

And finally….

And if all else fails, go straight to the pub and buy everyone a drink.

Better meetings: People in a pub agreeing with each other

(Thanks to the multitalented Helen Chadwick who made me this cartoon years ago when I was suffering from too many meetings.)

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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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